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It's Crystal Clear to Me
I’ve come to realize that everyone has an addiction. For some, it’s music; others, TV, and for still others it’s drugs, legal or not, prescription or not, liquid or not. I have my own addiction, I readily admit: my writing.
I still remember the first time I wielded a pen for a creative endeavor, and the first time I was successful—and for those of you who suffer from the ill-conceived notion that I am perfect, believe me when I say they were separate events. My first decent attempt was in fourth grade, when we had to choose an article from a newspaper and bring it to use as a springboard for our writing. It was a choose-it-yourself prompt and, luck of all luck, I found one about a tiger who had escaped from the zoo. Tigers had always fascinated me and, thanks to my wonderful teacher’s instruction, I found a storyline and characters just forming in my head…
Two weeks later found me sacrificing my half-hour lunch, typing furiously in the tiny computer lab, desperately trying to wrap up and print the story, which was due in… oh, about ten minutes. I suppose, in that respect, I’ve always been a procrastinator, but a darned good one, because when the class reassembled, I proudly handed my teacher a twenty-four and a half page story that could’ve been twice as long, had I had the time.
That was the beginning of something magnificent.
I didn’t realize how important words would become to me after that; didn’t think much more about writing at all, honestly. I loved to read, sure, but only wrote when specifically asked. What was there to write about, if not whatever you were being asked to write about? What lunatic would just sit around and spew words left and right for fun when they could read, or play, or watch TV? That seemed like a huge waste of time.
That is, until freshman year Pre-AP Biology, when I was forced to waste my time anyway. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great class with a great teacher, but for the love of all things Holy, it moved slowly. I understood the life cycle of a plant the first sixteen times you said it, I promise. Now, can I please forego times number seventeen through twenty-three?
So I stopped paying attention—which actually helped my grade, though I don’t recommend it. Most kids, when they are given the high privilege of being trusted enough to sit in the back row, just sleep. Not this girl.
I resorted to doodling originally, but I never was worth much as an actual artist. Chewing on the cap of my Bic Crystal, which would soon become the only type of pen I would even touch, I started to daydream. I thought mostly about the Batman movie I’d just seen the night before. Something about it intrigued me, gripped my attention and wouldn’t let go. Was it the suspense? Or was it the romantic element, stemming from the darkness, the danger, the raw power and mystery surrounding the strong hero? A few words of a snippet of conversation I overheard were also stirring around in my mind, probably some typical “who’s dating who” teenage gossip, and I absently pressed the pen to the blank space in the margin of my Mitosis and Meiosis notes.
The words came, slowly at first, like that first little fissure in the dam. Each one had to be tested—did it sound okay, did it fit right there, right after that other word? Did it taste right? If it didn’t sit well with me, I scratched it out and tried to think of a better substitute. The going was slow at first, but I found my way and more and more little holes punctuated the dam until BOOM! Suddenly there it was, the whole river at one time. The dam was gone and I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop.
I wrote in circles—literally—around and around the margins in a spiral shape until I was completely out of room. Then I resorted to an only half-used piece of notebook paper in the back of my Science folder, and switched to a turquoise blue pen so I would be able to tell the difference between the story and the notes—and find it—later. Next, I victimized the only other stray paper I could find in my freakishly neat backpack, the back of a brightly colored flyer announcing that yearbooks were still on sale. There was a kind of panicked frenzy to this whole process that was probably pretty amusing for anyone who happened to be watching, but I wasn’t laughing. I had to get the whole idea down right then. As I was desperately searching for another spare scrap, needing to find it quickly, before the glorious burst of genius abandoned me, my eyes lighted on that unassuming purple-and-blue-and-black striped composition book. It was supposed to be a journal for my English class, but we had only used it twice…
Oh, screw it, I finally decided. This will put it to better use anyway. I flipped it over, writing upside down from the back cover forward, so fast that it was hardly legible, scrawling scene ideas and vocabulary words I wanted to use later in the top margin, and thus my first story was born. When the turquoise pen started being difficult—the poor thing just couldn’t keep up with me—I grabbed the Crystal that was still lying nearby and haven’t hardly set it down since. Absentminded motions of the hand became a focused purpose, and I was soon consumed by the world I’d built for myself.
So I wrote. And wrote, and wrote and wrote, until I gave myself a not-so-mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome and developed a perplexing stiffness in the knuckles of my right hand, and on top of that ran an entire pack of Crystals bone dry, down to the last drop. Two standard composition books and a total of over three hundred and fifty pages later, at the end of the year I was halfway done with a mediocre piece of literature that would have been dead in the water, had I ever finished it.
But fate conspired against me on that one so, I shamefully admit, I set my precious baby by the wayside and focused on real life for a while. I endured some serious family hardships, an academically suicidal sophomore year, and a PSAT class before I finally gave up for good. After all, an addiction is an addiction. A passion is a passion.
Three years and four more unfinished stories later—“works in progress,” they are called these days and, may God preserve my soul, they are all action-packed love stories—all I can say is that writing has done two things for me: healed the wounds of the past, and provided a mental suit of armor for the future. While it serves as a wonderful creative outlet for me, it is so much more meaningful than that. It’s a secretive, coded record of my past and all I’ve learned from it, all I still stand to learn. It’s my heart, soul, fears, and deepest wishes, interspersed with magic and humor along the way. Since freshman year, writing has been therapeutic for me because I can immerse myself in a place where dreams come true, where telekinesis is possible—and don’t think I haven’t tried that in real life!—but, most importantly, for a short time I can inhabit a world where it’s safe to believe in the people around me. It’s safe to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted; it’s a haven of freedom and peace in an otherwise unstable and chaotic world.
Graham Greene, an English novelist, perfectly and eloquently sums it up: “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear...”
As we move out of the public school system and that circle of friends that most of us have held close since the early days of middle school, it’s time to stop looking over our shoulders and focus on the long road ahead. All told, I have no idea what my life will entail. Provided that the 2012 “event” doesn’t impede my plans, I intend to graduate from college, get a good job, and high-tail it overseas. But it doesn’t matter if I end up speaking French or German or Russian or Farsi or even Swahili, because I know this: I will forever face the world with a smile on my face, English words dancing behind my eyes and a Bic Crystal in my back pocket.