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moana (profile) wrote,
on 9-25-2008 at 2:09am
Subject: I'm a pathological writer.

I'm in first grade. I'm five. I remember this so clearly, because it was so unusual, but it rained on my way to school in the morning. So my first grade teacher, a spunky American blonde that used to tie my long long braid into a knot whenever I wasn't paying attention, asked the class to write about the weather. And me, I have no idea why I decide to do this, but I write a poem.

"Today oh the weather,
God is very clever
To make the trees so nice and green
Oh, it is a lovely scene!
The flowers blooming, pink and blue,
Mom is driving on and through."

Don't ask me how it's possible I still remember this poem, but I do, every word, every syllable. Apparently, I was destined to be some sort of artist. I remember talking to Ms. Jackie - the spunky blonde - about it, and how she used to tell me I should go for it. Her assistant, a kindly Filipina named Ms. Evangeline, whose favourite colour was blue, told me I was the best artist she ever met. So writing wasn't really a part of the plan. God knows it wasn't a part of my mother's plan for me. No, as far as she was concerned, I was going to be a doctor.

But back to the poem, right?

Well, it gets published in the elementary section of the school newspaper, "The Lion's Roar". Me, I take a copy home and show my mother. I'm very proud. Ms. Jackie and Ms. Evangeline made it sound like such a big deal, the youngest student to get published in the Roar, kudos for me! But my mother, she smiled and said I should concentrate on my work more. So I did.

But skip a couple of years to the future, and really, I don't get along with anyone at home. My brother grows up in middle school and becomes the popular kid. He has fashionable haircuts, and he does Michael Jackson for the Talent Show. Girls love him. He gets me to call their houses and ask for them, in case their parents or their brothers pick up, so the girl doesn't get in trouble for talking to a boy.

My parents, they're getting busier and busier. Divorces take a lot of time and energy, I hear, but me, I'm suddenly eight years old in the fourth grade, and I sit in my room with the door closed and read all the time. At first I read little things. I read Betsy Byars and Beverly Cleary. But then my teacher starts to notice, and in fourth grade it's Mr. Robinson, who always writes on my progress reports that I'm a good student but that I have an unfortunate tendency to daydream. At home I sit in my room while my mother and father scream at one another at the top of their lungs, and sometimes things break, and my mother gets hurt or one of them storms out, slams the door loudly behind them and doesn't come home for the rest of the night. Who can blame me for always pretending to be somewhere else?

So in the fourth grade, Mr. Robinson asks me if I've ever heard of Moby Dick. Then he gives me this big fat book, and tells me to take as much time as I need reading it. I finish it in a month, and then he gives me Shakespeare.

I'm nine, ten, eleven, and all I do is sit in my room with the door closed and read. The house is quieter now. My parents are divorced, my brother goes out a lot - with girls, I bet - and no one really notices me. My mother, she laughs at how easy it is to forget I'm even there. My brother, he tells me I should go out there and get a life. Really, he says, it's too fucking weird that I spend so much time staring at books.

I'm thirteen, and I wear glasses. I cut off the long long braid at last, but I have bad teeth and I'm skinny as hell. I'm much darker than my mother or my brother, and my hair always looks like the product of a bad combination of fork and toaster. Also, my father's wife had a baby girl, and is about to have a baby boy. At this point, though, I'm so ugly being invisible is a blessing. I'm reading Jane Austen and thinking she's not all that great. I finish Pride and Prejudice and I'm so unimpressed, I sit down at the big clanky desktop computer in my brother's room and start writing my own story. In less than three months, I have over two hundred pages full of some action thriller crime stuff with a sharp, powerful heroine that no one ever takes seriously. This is complete trash, and when the computer ends up dying and the book disappears into the magical ether of computer memory hell, the computer has unknowingly done the world a favor. Still, this is something. I realize I can write.

I'm fifteen, and my mother is married and my brother's in Sharjah, failing university. I write a one thousand word essay on Romeo and Juliet. My teacher accuses me of plagiarism. "This," he says, "is college-level work. I won't report you to the principal, I'll just give you a zero for this assignment." Then he smiles and winks, like this will just be our secret. What a bastard.

I'm seventeen and I'm a senior in high school. My brother's moved back home and I'm sending college applications everywhere but Kuwait. I get accused of plagiarism again, but this is no big deal. I'm reading Herman Hesse and Ernest Hemmingway. I have a big crush on the International Baccalaureate English teacher, and I want to impress him. I read Jane Eyre and 1984. I read Wuthering Heights, and I ask him to marry me. He says no, but can he keep the ring? Apparently, he still has it. After I graduate and leave, I start writing another book. I think if I can just manage to become this big famous writer, big and famous enough that he'll come across my book, he'll finally notice me. It's so stupid, I laugh at myself before any of my friends laugh at me, but I write the book anyway.

So I'm walking around AUD asking anyone if they know a way I can reach a publisher. I'm asking everyone, and the English department points me to this guy sitting in an office that looks more like a Simpsons shrine than any sort of professional workplace. I give him my book, and I ask him to read it, and I bug him twice a week asking if he has until he does. Tenacity, I'm told, is an admirable quality.

On my eighteenth birthday, the Simpsons guy says I have a great 'voice'.

I don't really know why I'm surprised at how little I've accomplished, running around looking for someone to read it and then dogging them until they do. I realize suddenly that after all, the biggest difference is that now the grand total of people who have read my work is two. One of my friends gets a poem published in a book of poetry, and me, I'm still wondering why it was so important to me that someone else read it. Maybe I just wanted someone else to tell me I was a good writer.

So I write and I write and I write. By now, I'm living on the praise I got from my first grade teachers for that poem. I'm nineteen, and I'm in China, and I email this woman and ask her if she'll put me in her anthology. And she does.

There's a book on my shelf, an anthology called "The Wonderful World of Worders". I've read Haruki Murakami and Chuck Palahniuk and Erika Lopez and Don DeLillo and Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut and I'm still writing. I have had exactly 150 words published. I am a failure as a writer. No one reads what I write, because it's too intimidating. Somehow, without having ever read what I write, they know what kind of writer I am. They know how important it is to me. They know how long I've been writing. The truth is, writing is the only thing I've ever been good at without trying, just writing and reading. My parents, they're William Shakespeare and Mercedes Lackey. I'm twenty years old and I've read more books than most people I know combined. I read the great classics of literature, and I mock them because I can write better. And I do write, I just keep on writing, one book done, discarded and another book started all over again. Every once in a while, I browse the internet for ways to contact a publisher, but I never follow through. No one reads my writing but me. When I write short stories or thought-pieces, people will comment and say, "I like your style, but you use too many commas." "Your sentences are too long." "You have tons of fragments." "You really shouldn't end your sentences with a preposition." "You're very repetitive."

Everything I write gets discarded, and if some fragment of it remains it gets crushed and recycled and reused somewhere else, too strange to recognize. I reuse it and I recrush it and I reuse it again and again. I figure it can't make too much of a difference. After all, I'm the only one that reads what I write.

So I keep writing.

And I keep writing.

And I keep writing.

And I'm very, very good at it.
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