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Finding a Way to Beat My Arch-Nemesis
I still remember the day I discovered my passion for writing. We were living in New York, in a quaint green cottage that sat on a dirt road. I remember it was cold. The people in town had told us that is was the coldest winter the state had seen in 13 years. I was 11 years old when I discovered my passion.
I stepped out of my bedroom and onto the rose patterned carpet I’d mocked so many times before. As I walked the few steps it took to reach the kitchen, I noticed my mom sitting in front of her computer. She beckoned me over. Peering over her shoulder, I recognized the website she was scrolling through as the one belonging to Duke TIP. I read the heading to see ‘Writing Contest’ typed out in big, bold letters.
Writing hadn’t been a hobby of mine at that point. I remembered my first grade composition book, where I’d written short stories titled “If I Lived in a Pumpkin” and “Funky Fashionistas.” Beyond that, though, I couldn’t think of anytime I’d really tried writing anything. As I read through the prompt for the competition, I found myself tingling with excitement, and although I’d never really written a story before, there was a first time for everything, right?
The prompt intrigued me. We were supposed to write about a superhero that saves civilization from real world issues, rather than some mutant villain from the movies. Sitting in the desk chair, I began to brainstorm ideas. I spun around in circles, much like the thoughts which were running through my head. Colors blurred as I spun faster, the beige of the walls, the teal of the cabinets, repeated. All I could see now were words, ideas, and I had to choose one. I wanted something that would stand out to the authors; something they would never believe was written by a sixth grader.
Then, a thought struck me. What if I didn’t write about a superhero, per se? With a grin, I built up a character and plot in my mind, and from that, “Chef Kallie: A Superhero With a Super Heart,” was born. I opened up a document and began to type, the words coming to me in a frenzy; my hands weren’t fast enough to keep up with my brain. So, I painted the story of Chef Kallie and her friends, Chloe and George, who came together night after night, whipping up unbelievable amounts of food and setting out in the streets of Los Angeles to feed the homeless. She was a hero.
My mom helped me edit, and at the end of the same day, I’d submitted my story to the judges. I was nervous, anxious to know the results, but they wouldn’t be released for a couple of months. My mom told me not to worry about it, to forget it for now and focus on school. So I did.
“Erica, come here.” Fast forward a month or two, and my mom called me into our dining room. She was sitting on the floor, my younger sister not far away. She patted the carpet, which I had become accustomed to - and now actually miss - beckoning me to sit. I wasn’t sure why she was calling me, so my mind automatically assumed the worst, and I wracked my brain, thinking of what I could have done to get in trouble.
“So, I got a phone call today,” she began suspensefully, and my heart began to race, “and it was from Duke TIP. You won!” At first, I could barely process what she was telling me, but when I did, I was ecstatic. A feeling of pride burst through me as I jumped up and down excitedly. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I won.
I began my next work a few months later, the hustle and bustle of moving states not allowing me much time for creativity. This story was the first in a collection of projects involving magic and the supernatural. I was excited to get started. I already had my characters in mind. Looks, personalities, and little details were already being formed. So I began to write. I typed and typed, not sure how much I’d written. Satisfied with my work, I closed the page and went along with my day, but when I sat back down, I was hit with a foreign feeling. I didn’t know what to write next. I’d start a sentence, but my mind didn’t seem to think it fit. This happened again and again, and I finally gave up. With a disappointed sigh, I found myself thinking, “Well, I guess writing isn’t my thing after all.”
Then, suddenly, a day, a week, or a month later, a new idea would present itself to me. It would seem perfect. I would begin my new story with new found confidence. The pages would fill up with words that formed the best story yet. Then, it would happen again. Just like before, I found myself lost, not able to think of anything to add. I became discouraged. Day after day, I would scrounge my brain for something, anything, that could be added to make my story continue, but nothing.
The pattern continued. For years, the same thing would happen. I would get an idea, start it, write so many pages that I’m positive my writers’ block won’t get me this time, and then it returns. My worst enemy is back, and hungry for ideas, eating them all away before I’m left without the end of my book.
There are bright colors. Bunches of beautiful red flowers blur my vision. A ship made of an unknown material sails through the gloriously blue ocean, shifting and morphing impossibly. A brooding, concrete prison sits atop a hill, sending off a sense of foreboding. The ship sails away from the building. Two children, a boy and a girl, are on that boat, looking over their shoulders apprehensively. They arrive at an island, the girl’s native land. That’s where the red flowers were from, a distant memory the girl had been describing to the boy. Her family welcomes her with open arms, but the owners of the prison find them and a war ensues. Then, there’s darkness.
It was a dream, and once again, I’d found an amazing idea for a story. I concocted the perfect plot, and for the first time, I even had an ending in mind. Excitedly, I reached for my laptop and opened a blank document, somehow feeling like this time, it would be different. This time, I really would finish the book. I would let my characters come to life and tell their story; I was just their way of bringing it to the world.
When I think of my experience as a writer, I like to look back at my first story. Although I get discouraged when I reach a roadblock, I like to think back on my success. Yes, I may hit a few rocky patches, but in the end, I know I was able to do it once, so I can do it again. Like Hydra and Captain America, or Magneto and the X-men, my arch-nemesis is bound hit me at a time when it’s least expected, but just like Chef Kallie began her fight against hunger, I can begin my fight too.