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April 08, 2024

Writing

By Mel Trent

Sometimes I think this writing shit is too hard. I wonder why I do this. Why am I sitting here, staring at a blank computer screen? Why do I keep going back to writing even when I'm writing shit and believe I'm incapable of anything better? Talented? Hell, no. Do I have skill? I'll cop to that. I've been writing since I was ten. I'm 33 now. That's a lot of years, a lot of practice, a lot of words. Was writing ever more than a hobby? Should I be devoting so much time to a hobby? I have a job, a husband, a house. Shouldn't I be worrying more about paying bills, having a baby, keeping my job? Absolutely not. Because this is my passion.

When I first started writing, it was something to do. I loved books, and that love prompted me to want to create my own books. I drew on my dreams and wrote silly things that too closely mirrored what I read or watched on TV.

In sixth grade, my class was given an assignment to write a short story. I threw myself into it with abandon. I wrote a science fiction story about a tomboy astronaut dealing with a girly-girl partner as they explored a hostile world. Part of the assignment was reading the story to the class. The class loved it. I loved it.

I moved on from reading sf to horror, and my writing moved accordingly. I wrote about monsters and grisly deaths. I wrote about my angst. Were those stories any good? I have no clue. It didn't matter. I needed them.

In ninth grade English class, we were assigned a short story for a contest with the theme "Where does the sky end?" I knew what kind of writing my teacher and the people who would judge the contest expected. I decided I didn't give a fuck. I wrote a short, evil piece from the point of view of a character who dumped classmates in a trash compactor. I got an A+. Mrs. Houck loved it so much, she read it to the class; so much, she submitted it to the contest, knowing full well that what I had done was exactly what they weren't looking for. I knew then that writing was my calling. I knew it before but couldn't admit my hobby was what I was meant to do with my life.

I continued to write sf and horror, often mixing the two and sometimes throwing in fantasy or police procedural. Writing was still therapy, too. My parents were divorced by then. I was getting used to that and having a step-father and going to a different school. My characters were like alters in dissociative identity disorder, each a facet of my personality that I broke off from the whole and dealt with separately.

These days, writing is less therapy and more passion. I write because my imagination comes up with characters, the characters tell stories, and I have to do something with them. To say I write because I have to sounds as if I'm not in control. I am, but I'm still more of a conduit. Characters appear from everywhere -- observances, experiences, dreams -- and they sit in my brain chattering, telling me their fantastic, scary, sad or funny stories until I feel obligated to record their adventures.

Then I have days like today. I'm staring at a half finished chapter of a novel I wrote in 2003. I've been working on revising it for several months now. Raw creation is the easy part. Refining it is hard. I stare at the words on my screen and think, why am I doing this?

Because I have to. Because I can. I believe that no matter what happens to the future of the printed word, we will always have literature in some form. Stories are an essential part of human psychology. We need them. We need storytellers who have the passion to shape words into new worlds and people.

I am a storyteller. I have that passion. Despite the fact that I swear I write for myself, there's something thrilling about an audience reaction, about knowing the passion I put into the work can stir passion in a reader -- Mrs. Houck's enthusiasm for my fucked up contest story, the more recent "I want to print this out and slobber over it," even less positive reactions like "that doesn't really work." That's why I do this.

-- Mel Trent

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-20
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