By Kate Broderick
If you had to categorize what type of child I was, I suppose you could say I was a little bit of a “goody two-shoes.” In addition, I had the unfortunate pairing of being a boisterous, outdoorsy child with crotchy old neighbors that liked to complain about the noise level of my backyard shenanigans. Being faced with weekends interrupted by the shrieking antics of noisy children outdoors, they took the obvious option—they threatened me that the police would come and arrest me for disturbing the peace. As consequence, anytime the neighborhood children got too loud, I would hide, absolutely terrified that the police were on their way to haul me off to the clink (the fact that no police ever arrived did little to alleviate that fear).
My neighbors, probably grasping at their last straw after a long week, had threatened me with the police just that once when I was four. You can imagine the impression that single instance made for it to be an effective charm against unseemly shrieking during games of tag or capture the flag for the next decade. I bring this anecdote to attention to highlight the weird, obedient child I was. In my entire academic career, the only time I ever received any censure or disciplinary action was when I was awarded a pink slip in fifth grade for failure to wear a belt with my uniform. Well, that and the time I was sent to the Principal’s Office.
You would think, from the picture I’ve painted as a child all too eager to appease the authorities, that the trip to see the Principal would have had me quaking in my shoes—ironically, I felt liberated. Free.
How did this momentous trip occur? Wait one second while I peel back the caked on layers of memories and tell you.
It all began with a story. I don’t remember why or how I started, but suddenly I had written a story about a field mouse and everybody would clamor for the next update. And the next, and the next. Like a starving flower desperate for light, I thrived under the attention. I was in second grade at the time and my head had turned from my newfound fame, and that is my only excuse for blatantly defacing a textbook, but somehow or other, before I knew it, my entire math book was filled with my scribbly handwriting and atrocious spelling detailing wondrous adventures of the field mouse and its search for glory. My teacher discovered my graffiti one day (which was not a difficult task—instead of solving math problems as instructed, I was reading the newest chapter to a group of classmates huddled around my desk—we were hardly covert about the operation). I was given a one way pass with police (i.e. security guard) escort to see the Principal, a woman who always had lipstick smeared to her front teeth but somehow managed to still be imposing.
She asked if I was sorry that I had defaced the book.
Generally at this point, I would have been profusely apologizing, wringing my hands, and embodying the very portrait of contrition. I was an obedient coward that hated confrontation. But I had found something at last to be brave for.
Sitting across from the Principal, my legs dangling as they were too short to reach the floor, I said, “No.” I wasn’t sorry. I had a story that somehow sprung to life in my being, and it had to be told. Maybe the story began as a doodle, to break the monotony of the cold facts of numbers, and maybe I continued it because I reveled in the attention, but at that moment I suddenly realized something: that scribbly little story about a tiny grey mouse belonged to me, and I belonged to that story.
My voice, which had been scared away by reprimand and my belief in the possibility of impending arrest, had found its home at last. That was the defining moment, that I knew, with the pure certainty and clarity belonging to the pure heart of a seven-year old, that I was destined to be a writer.
Somewhere along the way between waiting for Peter Pan to appear at my window, and the horror of puberty, and excitement of leaving for college, and midterms, finals, and papers, I let my voice die and stopped listening for the stories that live within me. I am letting the coward triumph.
Why? Because somehow the world will know the full extent of my passion for writing; because if I fail then my glittery lifelong dream will pop like a soap bubble, never to return. Everyone could hate what I write. Worst of all: rejection.
Doubt, doubt, doubt.
As I teeter on the edge of the “real-world,” and contemplate what life will be like after college, I miss the me that would have taken a stand and said, “No. I have a story living and breathing inside me, and it deserves to be heard. “
It was at this moment that I remembered the Creative Writing Institute.
Every May, Florida Tech has a Creative Writing Institute. Top writers hold workshops and panels on various aspects of writing, such as “History Writing,” and ‘The Ten Biggest Mistakes that Writers Make.” I’ve considered attending CWI in the past, but have always found excuses not to attend—my favored excuse being that I have no free time (yet I can somehow waste hours on YouTube and Facebook!). I think it is time that I stop letting the coward-me sabotage myself. Writing is what I want to do. Life is too short for hesitation, and too precious to waste on filling hours with videos of cats. I am not going to let fear of rejection and failure paralyze me from creating the stories I was born to tell.
How about you? When was your “Ah ha!” moment when you fell in love with writing and knew that it was the part of you that had been missing all this time? Or maybe it was a gradual process for you, or instinctual, like breathing. You are reading this because some part of you is interested in writing. Why haven’t you taken the next step with it yet? What is holding you back? It’s time to stop allowing life’s obstacles prevent you from taking a step closer to your passion. At the end of your life, do you want to say, “Wow. I watched a lot of cat videos on YouTube,” or “Wow. I gave it my best and I tried,” ?
2012 is our year.
Creative Writing Institute is the place. You can register here: http://411.fit.edu/cwi/classes.php, or call for more information: 321-674-7248.
I’ll see you in class.