Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing the Previously Unwritten

"If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."-- Toni Morrison

There wasn't a day in my life that I wanted to do something other than write.  Even when pursuing my "illustrious singing career", I wrote my own material.  I had a voice I was always desperate to use, and not using it was never an option.  I've written in a journal for as long as I can remember, and when I couldn't hash out exactly how I felt there, I wrote prose, verse by verse, until the universe understood me.

My work became very dark and brooding.  I couldn't figure out how to convey exactly what it was I was feeling, but I understood that feeling was never very...happy.  Love was always unrequited, I was always invisible or underappreciated, and my self-esteem was poor, to say the very least.  I found my favorite authors were those who wrote about death and mystery, primarily Edgar Allan Poe.  I was confused about my identity, and due to some dark happenings in my childhood, I frequently debated if I was a child or an adult--and this confusion was evidenced in my writing.  But my work was praised by teachers and fellow peers alike.  My first real criticism didn't come until college.

Quite frankly, my creative writing professor cited my work as "troubled", saying: "Musing about one's dark and embittered past is not only cliched--it is boring to its very core.  Find your center and write from there."  I got a C+ in that course--my first C in anything other than math or physical education.  And I was crushed.  Because not only was I passionate about writing and had never conceivably failed at it, but I was also (and still am) very much the perfectionist and anything less than a B in a subject I adored was crippling to me.

Edgar Allan Poe
This led to a determination to hone my craft.  Truthfully, honing your craft is something you never actually finish; it's an ongoing feat of perseverance.  I found a mentor who has been a major factor in the development of The Grim, and of my writing.  I discovered that all the unaddressed elements of my childhood I had suppressed were surfacing in my work, much in the same way as it was understood Poe's did.

I am still compared to Poe by my mentor who finds my work just as thought-provoking and macabre as Poe's haunted tales.  A short story I wrote, The Haunting, was compared to Poe's Tell-Tale Heart, which of course is one of my favorite Poe stories.  I wrote The Haunting as a contest submission for a major writing magazine.  The premise was to write a short story, no more than 15-pgs single spaced, retelling an old classic in a new way.  The classic could be a short story, play, poem, movie or novel--just as long as it was older than 1960 and had been legitimately lauded as a "classic" in its industry.  I took second place.  I chose--well, I'll let you read it.  Comment below and tell me which classic you think it is...

I am in my millionth edit of The Grim, motivated, as always, by my first real criticism--and the desire to tell a story I hadn't heard before.  I never expected the story I'd tell though would be my own...

1 comment:

  1. The Haunting is an incredible short story. I can see where the Tell-Tale Heart reference comes from! Of course A Christmas Carol is the classic you based it on but the way you told it was fresh and exciting...not to mention a little creepy!