Today’s piece is written by Sera Gamble, Writer-Producer of “Supernatural” and Co-Creator of the blog
When I was in the seventh grade, I wrote a poem about Mozart. It was for a class assignment. Subject matter was dealer’s choice – most of my classmates wrote rhyming couplets about true love – and I’d just discovered classical music. Also, I was already pretentious. This poem of mine so impressed the teacher that she asked me to read it aloud for the class. Maybe because everyone had applied themselves to the assignment with unexpected sincerity, I didn’t get slapped as hard as you might imagine with nerd backlash. Most of the class even clapped. I thought, Hey, I should become, like, a professional writer! People will think I’m awesome and shower me with applause!
After class, this chick approached me at my locker. “So, your poem,” she said. “You’re good with words.”
“Thanks,” I said, with casual humility.
“Yeah, totally,” she continued. “But, you know, it didn’t move me.”
With that, she walked away (possibly in the general direction of a career as a studio exec). I stood there for a long time, locker door in my clammy hand, feeling the blood prickle my neck. I was crushed. She was, I knew, spot-on. Who gives a shit how well-constructed a piece of writing is, if it doesn’t make people feel anything?
Luckily, soon after this my family moved to Southern California. I went kicking and screaming – I was leaving my hometown, all my friends, my first love who’d only just gotten the balls to kiss me. In Redlands, I knew no one. The kids were more worldly than back in Cincy; wore way less clothing; spoke in a sarcastic monotone I couldn’t properly reproduce; had no room in their entrenched clique structure for overeager newbies.
Three important factors came together the week I moved to Redlands:
- I had no one to talk to.
- Angst suffused every cell of my body.
- Someone had given me a diary as a going-away present.
The page became my dearest confidante, my only friend. I couldn’t afford to write well-constructed stuff; I was on fire with rage and loneliness. (Future Studio Exec Chick woulda been thrilled.) Soon enough, I discovered the local coffee shop. With it came open mic night, heartbreaking love triangles and a constant stream of potent espresso drinks; amped on all three, I splayed on my bedroom floor at three in the morning, scrawling emotion-drenched blank verse until the pen callous on my middle finger developed a blood blister.
Things didn’t rock so hard for me in high school. I was That Girl: I wore black; I fought daily, hourly with my parents; I dated crazy boys; I flirted with all the usual bad ideas. I scared my teachers, my family, myself. I could easily have ended up a cautionary tale. Instead, I escaped adolescence relatively unscathed. Because whatever epic tragedy was unfolding in my hormone-addled mind that day, I wrote about it. And wrote. And wrote. I wrote until I’d accidentally exhausted myself and couldn’t rally the energy to enact any of my more ambitiously self-destructive plans. I reread some of the stuff I wrote when I was sixteen before I wrote this essay. Full disclosure: it is by and large embarrassingly histrionic, overwrought ass on a stick. If I read it to you over a moist open mic, you would laugh, perhaps until you peed yourself. Also, no fucking way am I showing it to you. But I will never throw it away. On the surface, it looks like hundreds of pages of whiny dramatics. Underneath, though, it’s the road map of a deeply sad, anxious girl discovering that writing what she feels is going to save her.
So, I never stopped writing. Because obviously that would be a stupid move. Also, I get paid for it now. I guess it’s not so strange that I eventually got good enough to warrant a paycheck, considering the obscene amount of practice I’ve put in over the last fifteen years. But it also feels a little like icing, getting paid to do the one thing I’d do regardless. I was among the most radioactively miserable kids in a high school of thousands, and now I’m one of the happiest writers I know. The process of writing doesn’t cause me the agony it does many writers I’ve talked to – you know, the ones who wax rhapsodic about the torture of the blank page. I sit down to a blank page and see my oldest friend. Some days I write something decent. Some days I suck. Whatever. It’s not like I won’t be back tomorrow.
WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers. Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers. If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.