I've been writing ever since I can remember; ever since I've known how to write. I remember when I was in kindergarten I wrote a short story, complete with pictures and everything. It definitely wasn't worthy of a Pulitzer prize or anything, but I think it's what awoke my passion for words. Ever since that day my mom's told me that I would be a writer. At first, I didn't believe her because writing wasn't a "real" career. For at least ten years I just waved it off. I wrote for myself and that was that, no one would ever read my writing, and there's no way that anyone would actually like it. Things like that didn't happen to me. But then, high school started. I was an emotional wreck. So I wrote even more. Dark poems, short stories, hopeless songs. Afterwards, I got better, my sadness lifted and I was happy again. I didn't have any more powerful emotions to put into my writing. I tried writing a happy poem once, I couldn't do it. I guess happiness was still a little foreign to me. So, I jumped to creative writing.
I believe that creative writing is what helped me realize that I had talent. I found that I really, truly enjoyed writing and I might of even been good at it. By grade ten, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be able to share stories with the world. It was around the same time that I discovered my other passion, history. Now, I wanted to write about history. I wanted to share the knowledge that I found so fascinating. I wanted to share the stories of people long forgotten. I was determined that this was the path that I was going to take. I was going to go into history and become a writer and that was that. I've been stubborn my entire life - I still am - and I'm no different with my life choices. When I told people that I wanted to go into history most of them would just smile and nod. A few would utter something like:
"oh, that's interesting." or "that's an unusual field".
However, when I'd talk to my mother or grandmother about it, I'd get things like:
"Is there money in that?"
"How are you supposed to support yourself?"
"You're wasting your time."
"What are you possibly gonna do with a degree in history?"
"There are no jobs."
Not once did I ever get something like:
"That's gonna be a good challenge, but I know that you can do it."
I had gotten used to the negative comments. I started tuning them out. This was my dream and for most of my life my mom always told me to follow my dreams, that I could do anything that I wanted. Yet here I was, telling her exactly what I wanted and I wasn't getting any encouragement. I had to find that on my own. So you'd think that I'd be used to the rejection so many writers suffer from. I thought I was used to it. I thought that when my writing got rejected, I'd handle it like a pro and keep going just as strong as if nothing had happened. Boy, was I wrong.
Grade ten went by faster than I could've ever imagined it. Before I knew it, I had started grade eleven. It was so different. But there was one thing that hadn't changed. I still wanted to write and I still wanted to write about history. I wrote as often as I could. Mostly just creative writing because I didn't have the patience or imagination to write anything else (until NaNoWriMo came along, but that's a completely different story. Maybe I'll tell it some other time). Then, there was an assignment. It was for my French class, we had to write a poem. I'll admit, my ego got a little inflated. I thought that I for sure had this and that it would be an easy grade. I'd been writing poems since grade eight, and I'd written a lot of poems for French class before. I worked hard on it. I dug down deep into my heart and pulled out some old emotions that I hadn't felt in a long time. I told you that I couldn't write happy poems. I was so proud of my work. It was a huge piece of my heart, of my life on paper. I was expecting at least a 4, hopefully a 4+. A few weeks later I got it back. When I looked at my grade, marked in red pen, my world shattered.
3. I got a three. I don't get threes. Not in French, or in English, or in history, or in music or in science. I got threes in math, that's about it. I didn't get threes in French, especially not when it was a writing task. At first, I was beyond pissed off. I went down to lunch, just completely numb. I sat there, for fifty minutes, completely silent. I was so mad. I didn't know if I was mad at myself or mad at my teacher. I just knew that I was mad. I went up to my English class after, with my poem still in my bag. I sat down in my spot in the back beside my best friend. We were one of the first ones in class. The first words out of my mouth were:
"I'm so pissed!"
I guess I had said it loud enough, because my English teacher scolded me. But then I explained that I was really mad and she asked why. I told her:
"I got a really bad note in French. It just feels as if my teacher doesn't get me as a writer and it's frustrating."
She then told me something that I would never, ever forget and something that she's repeated to me many times since then:
"Well, I think you're a really good writer."
That lifted my mood for about 0.5 seconds, until I had to tell my best friend what happened. She listened sympathetically, read my poem, agreed that my teacher was stupid. I think that as far as she was concerned, the matter was over. But it was far from over. We were watching a movie in English. Needless to say, I couldn't quite focus. I kept thinking about that poem, about that note. Thousands of thoughts ran lose around my head. Then, there was one string of thoughts that was louder than all the other ones. One that stood out from the crowd. In my head I heard the words:
"What if it's not her? What if it's me? What if I just can't write anymore? What if I could never write and nobody had the guts to tell me? What if my dream is futile?"
Right then and there I wanted to burst into tears. Had I just wasted years of my life believing that I had this talent, when in reality I had nothing? Had I dreamed up a dream that was impossible because I had no skills? I was no longer pissed, I was upset. With myself, with my teacher. I walked out of class followed by one of my friends. Before we went our separate ways down the hallway she pulled me aside and told me that I was really out of it. She had already heard what happened, but I don't think she realized until then what an impact it had on me. On my self esteem. I leaned against the lockers, look up and said:
"If I'm not a writer...who am I?"
I felt tears on the rim of my eyes, but I refused to cry, I still had one class left to go to. My friend told me something about Einstein in an attempt to make me feel better, but I remember walking away from her and thinking "I don't care! I'm not Einstein. I'm just me." I don't even know how I functioned for the last fifty minutes of my day. The only thing I wanted to do was burst into tears. I got on the bus and sat with my best friend, I was too upset to talk about anything other than this poem. I think that's when she realized how serious this was and how badly it had hurt me. I said things like:
"I gave her a piece of my heart, a piece of my life in that poem and she treated it like it was crap. She just threw it out like it didn't mean anything."
"She doesn't get that this isn't made up like the majority of the other poems that she got. This is real, it's a part of who I am. I opened up to her and she shut me out."
"What if I really can't write? This is the only thing that I thought I was good at and what if I'm not even good at that anymore?"
I put my head down on my schoolbag and looked up at my best friend, desperate for answers that she couldn't give me. Then I muttered the famous words: "If I'm not a writer...who am I?" This time, I couldn't stop the tears. In a year of being best friends with her, it was the first time that she had ever seen me cry. No one ever sees me cry. I'm the kind of person who cries in the dark in her room under her blankets. But I was just so upset that I couldn't stop it. I tormented myself with questions as my best friend comforted me the best she could. By the time I got off the bus, my tears were dried and I had come to somewhat of a solution. I would have to go talk to my French teacher and ask her if I could do anything to change my grade. I wasn't about to suffer in silence when it came to my writing. I was done being upset and I was done being a baby about it, I was pissed off again.
About half an hour after I got home, I got the most incredible and encouraging email, an email which I'll treasure forever. My best friend had taken the time to write me this amazing letter, basically telling me that it didn't matter what one person thought. One person who didn't know me, who didn't know my story, who didn't know why I wrote the words that I did. She told me that she still thought I was an amazing writer and that if I wanted this, if I wanted to realize my dream, I could. Needless to say, that brought more tears to my eyes. And I swear, one day I'm gonna frame that letter and it's going up on my wall.
I did gather the guts to go talk to my French teacher. It's almost four months later and I still haven't gotten my note back. But, I got an eighty on my report card, so I must've done better the second time around. And you know what? I barely changed anything. I didn't change any of the words. The only thing I did was type it up, fix my grammar mistakes and print it on pretty paper. When I gave that poem back the second time around, it was still my story. It was still a part of my life. It was still a part of my heart.
I'm not writing this in an attempt to be comforted and to be told that I'm a good writer. That's not my goal at all. I know my worth. I know that I have a long way to go, but I'm only sixteen so I have time to grow and learn and do all the things that I need to do to become better. I'm writing this because I wanted to share. I wanted to say that I know how hard it is to get rejected, especially when it's something that you put so much effort into. When it's something that you invest yourself into. When the piece has become a part of you. When you're giving out a part of your heart. I know how passionate writers are about their work, and it makes it that much harder to get rejected. It was the first time that it had happened to me, I know that it won't be the last time. Maybe next time I'll be better prepared. Maybe I won't be. I don't think it'll hurt any less, but I think I might be able to be stronger about it.
Writing isn't easy. There's no textbook telling you how to do it. There's no surefire method. You don't go to school for ten years to learn about technique and procedures. I mean you can, but that's not what counts. There's no one way to write. Everybody does it differently, and that's what makes is so special. Every piece is different. It's a hard road because what works for one person might not work for another. But we don't write because it's easy. We write because we have to, because if we don't, we might fall apart, we might suffocate. We write because it's essential to our lives, it's as normal to us as breathing. We write because we love it, and because we're good at it. We have this talent that we're dying to share with the world. And nothing should stop us from doing that.