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Paintbrushes and Phoenixes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Buffalo, NY
In fourth grade, I knew I was going to be a writer. I read books about kids my age traveling through time and learning foreign languages and struggling with poverty and succeeding. What was I? I was nothing. So I became a writer.

I bought pens in bulk and hardcover notebooks because I destroyed paperbacks. My hands were black and blue by the end of the day. I wrote and wrote every single idea in my head until my hands cramped up and went numb. I wrote with my left hand just to get more words in. I wrote in recess instead of playing freeze tag.

One day, I read some of my old pages. They disgusted me. Why didn’t the words come together like in real books? I kept reading. I cried. My pages were absolutely awful.

So I read books on how to write, trying to hone my craft. It was all so confusing at first, active voice except when you use passive voice? Cut down on word count but be as descriptive as possible? But soon, I got the hang of it, and I showed my mom.

My mom was my role model then. She was beautiful, successful, and strong; mentally and physically. In kindergarten, she threatened a bully and said that if he ever bothered me again, she would kill him. She was as tough as nails. She changed Cinderella’s ending to Cinderella becoming a model and having the prince become her photographer because she never wanted me to look for a man as my ending. She said individual success should come before marital success. She would tell me about her successes, and how to be successful. I wanted to be her.

When I tried to show her my writing, she said, “Go away (Name), I’m busy.”

But I was persistent. I caught her while she was watching T.V. and asked her again. She sighed and said fine. She read it very quickly and said it was good. I asked if she was sure and she said yes. I left her alone and ran to my room. I shut my door behind me and squealed. My writing was good! It was good! I was finally good at what I was! I was good at being me!

I wrote more after that, and with every word, I knew I was doing good. I knew I was creating something valuable. And I wanted my creations to be more valuable, I wanted it to be great.

So I joined a writing camp. I wanted to meet other people like me, other people who wanted to be valuable and great. It was wonderful. Every day we would get an idea to write about, and we would pass our scribbles around and laugh or cry or critique. Critique, never judge.

When I went home on the last day of writing camp, I showed my mom the published anthology and showed her my page. She read what I wrote and said,

“Did you really write this?”

“Yes,” I said. My heart pounded. I felt sick.

“No one helped you, no coauthor?”

“No,” Cold sweat collected on my hairline.

“This is incredible, (Name). One of the best things I’ve ever read.”

My heart kept pounding. I felt like I was underwater, weightless and breathless and my vision blurry.

“Really? Really? What did you like about it best?”

She told me what she liked about it best, she seemed excited when she talked about it. She talked about it for seven minutes straight. She talked about it as excitedly as she talked about her own successes.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to be great. Instead, I was incredible, one of the best things ever. The whole night I was underwater, weightless and breathless and my vision blurry.

“Best thing ever,” I murmured. Weightlessly, breathlessly, my vision blurred.

I kept on writing little pieces, and my mom loved them all, but still gave me critiques. She critiqued my writing with a microscope now, every detail had to be perfect. Under her guidance, I got into anthologies, and won awards.

I was happy. I always wrote things on the dark side, but I was incredible at it, one of the best things ever.

But soon things at school took a turn for the worse. Girls became boy-crazy, even my friends. They started to wear short, tight things, things that showed off what was left best to the imagination.

I became lonelier than I had ever felt. My writing became a little darker, just a hue, but it was enough to inspire me to write something that would kill me.

I joined the same writing camp as the year before, but this time, I was in the older group. I was the near youngest there, considering I had only just turned thirteen.

I went through the writing camp again, still critiquing, still writing, still laughing, still crying, but on a much higher level. I found myself looking down on some of these kids. Writing wasn’t a life to them, it was a way to vent! Some of them wore heavy black makeup and had piercings. They spoke in riddles, trying to be deep, but it was just ridiculous! I thought to myself, I’ll show them what deep is.

After the last day of writing camp, while I was in the car with my mom, I told her about what I had written (the anthologies would be sent to our house this time).

She stayed silent for a while. She kept her eyes on the road.
“Name,” she said to me finally.
“You are only thirteen.”
“You can’t write things like that.”
“If you do, you will be hauled away.”

We both stayed silent for the rest of the car ride. I felt like I was underwater, weightless, breathless, my vision blurred. I turned my head and looked out the window. I saw my reflection. My eyes were red. I breathed in slowly. I heard nothing. I smelled nothing. I felt so much, but words fail me now, pictures fail me now, my tear ducts fail me now. I tried to blink my tears away. My eyelashes just got wetter. My heart didn’t flutter, it didn’t break, it stopped being. I stopped being incredible, I stopped being one of the best things ever, I stopped being me, time stopped in that moment, that moment I stopped being a writer.

My mom went to a Tim Horton’s to drop me off with a friend. My mom didn’t say goodbye and neither did I. I wasn’t angry or sad; I was blank.
My friend helped me get my sleeping bag.

“Are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying.”

I laughed. It was an empty laugh.

“I’m fine!” I was. Not.

The time I spent with my friend seemed surreal. Time had stopped back in the car; this wasn’t real, was it? No, it wasn’t. The day of shopping and swimming and empty laughter never really did happen. Nope. Never. Ever.

When the day had ended, my friend and I watched T.V. until she said she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. She turned off the T.V. and fell asleep. When I made sure she was really asleep, I turned the T.V. back on. I put it on mute. I stared blankly at the Kardashians, with their expensive bags and terrible personalities. They were fake. But none of this was really real, was it? None of this really ever did happen. Nope. Never. Ever.

The next morning, my mom picked me up. She helped me put my things in the trunk. She acted as though yesterday had never happened. So did I. Nothing really ever happens. Nope. Never. Ever.

I wandered around the house for the day, eating little and thinking less. I didn’t pick up a pen. My hands were soft and clean for the first time in a long time. Since I had nothing to do, I went to sleep at seven. I dreamt nothing. I was a shell, a hole, an abyss, I took in my surroundings but forgot them instantaneously.

I woke up the next morning at three. I saw one of my notebooks on the floor.
I went back to sleep.

After days of doing this, wandering around the house mindlessly, eating one meal, and sleeping a lot, I had an impulse. I walked upstairs to my room and opened one of my notebooks. It had a pen stuck in one of the pages, waiting for me. I picked it up, and put it back down. I picked it up again. It felt natural. I wrote one word. Color, sparks. And another. More color, more sparks. And another. Blood rushed to my cheeks and lips, I could feel my skin regaining its healthy color again, I felt my eyes widen. I wrote more and more words, violas and trumpets filled my ears, my skin tingled, how I missed the pages, how I missed them! I never looked up. I kept writing furiously, stories, plots, finding the right word, cutting words, oh, how I missed it all, how I missed the smoothness of the page, the smudges of the ink. I never stopped, even when my hand felt like it was going to fall off. My heart was again, I was again, time started, and I was free, flying, underwater, weightless, breathless, but this time, clear, clearer than it ever was before, that this was for me, that there was nothing else, no other possible path.

When I finally stopped, I had written sixty pages. Everything seemed more vivid, colors brighter, sounds louder, smells smellier, touches harsher, the world more welcoming.

The sun had come up, I had written through the night. I went to my window. Stars still glistened in the west, the sun evaporated clouds in the east. I pressed my face against the glass and fogged it up. I knew I was going to be okay.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Miss_Lady said...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm
That was an open window into the life of a writer. You wrote that so effectively and so nicely. You told your story in a way that made me want to keep reading, but yet, feel so sorry for you. I felt like I was going thorugh this ordeal. I felt like I was the one who was told "incredible" and then "you're only thirteen." One thing that I don't agree with is the part where you talk about people writing to vent... Writing can be a life to some people but other people c... (more »)
 
Prose replied...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm
Thank you!  I know that so many people write as a life, even kids my age...I need to seek them out.  But most of the time, I see kids decide to write a book or a story and give up on it just as quickly, and it's just angsty stuff.  I'm glad there's a website like this.  It reassures me that I'm not the only one who has poured their life into writing, and want to write well!
 
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