Monday, October 17, 2011

Part 1: My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality

At age ten I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer. My pursuit of the craft originated three years prior.

My second grade class had been assigned the task of preparing individual, fictional compositions. We were given the option to submit our prepared work to the Young Georgia Author’s contest. To inspire us, my teacher had brought assorted photographs and clip art. We could write our story based on whichever picture we selected. I remember being particularly esteemed to get a ‘good’ picture. I remember feeling, in my unfaltering seven-year-old confidence, that I could do better than anyone else in the classroom and I didn’t want a good picture to be wasted on anyone else. The picture that sent me soaring from my desk, hand-up, was the picture of a dinosaur playing the piano with a little girl.

The story I wrote was about a dinosaur who was also a piano teacher. He was being held captive in the zoo. In the story, he meets a little girl who wants piano lessons and, consequently, a pet dinosaur. It had a happy ending and placed in the contest. I have since lost the publication the story was printed in, so I don’t remember the specifics of its award. The story, however, compelled me to write more.

And I did. I wrote incessantly. When I wasn’t inspired to write on my own, I begged my teacher for an assignment. I wrote poems. I wrote songs (whose tunes only I could decipher, since I could not write music). I wrote advertisements for the contents of my family’s refrigerator. (My most memorable to date was a Jamaican influenced jingle for an alternative butter spread.)  I wrote letters and more short stories. One year, for black history month, I even wrote a fictionalized journal of Harriet Tubman. I read it to a friend, who was older than me, and she called it stupid. So I tore it up and threw it away. In retrospect, it was probably for the best. I was seven at the time, unaware of much about the world I lived in, and it’s quite possible that my work of art bore solely out of admiration for her story, might have actually been very offensive.

Although I don’t remember the exact moment it first came to me, I knew during those delicate years writing was my reason for existing and I was destine to do this for the rest of my life. It was sometime in my fourth grade year that I formulated a different idea.

I don’t remember the exact moment it happened, or the exact thing that spurred it. Scratch that. Actually, I do remember. It was in the classroom of, at the time, my most favorite teacher that I’d ever had. During that year, our classroom was overtaken by an evil student teacher, whom I was tricked into liking, because my favorite teacher seemed to like her. It was one of the worst days of my young life that she substituted the entire day for my favorite teacher who was out sick. Though I don’t recall the context, or even the reason behind her saying so, that day she told the class that writers did not make a lot of money. They were basically just starving artists.

Gasp. Panic. The world, a whirlwind around me.

So this is the awful fate I’d been resigned to? This was my destiny? To spend every waking day alone in a dimly lit room, a slave to the pen, surviving from stale bread and gruel?  (I know, the imagery I fathomed was rather theatrical, but I have an excuse; I’m a writer).

And so, I resigned from my craft to pursue my other, more realistic aspirations of becoming a famous paleontologist. (Famous being the key notion here.)

It was time to put down the pencil and start digging.

The story isn’t over, but Part One of this blog is. My next post will be Part Two of My Inspiration, Perspiration, and Reality.

What inspires you? What makes you sweat? Comment below!

Thanks for reading!

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