It’s 8am. The school bell is about to ring. Any second now, the shrill sound will pierce the air and it’s going to be too late, once again, to slink into class undetected. If only the door was just a bit closer! If only there was a way to freeze the clock on the wall, to make a break for the desks, to sit down without-
It’s too late. There’s the bell. And there’s the schoolyard bully we’ve all been dreading. Spotted.
It’s very nearly impossible to make it through school without experiencing a bully of some sort. It doesn’t matter if it’s the kid who looks like they could punch out every tooth in an alligator’s mouth or if it’s the flock of gossipers spreading vicious words through the halls. In a few strange and unexpected ways, however, writing is remarkably similar.
- It’s Always in the Back of Your Mind
How do you pick out a writer from a group of students? Look for the one with eyes glazed over like they’re lost in another world, the one so deep into the journal or sketchbook across their desk it’ll be next to impossible to pull them back out.
While bullies bring about fear and have a profound effect on everyday behavior, the writing bug has a slightly different effect. Scraps of paper become places to scribble character names, plot points, and that perfect clip of dialogue. School, work, even the drive home can become exhilarating entertainment when the smallest word from a customer, a quote from a literary professor, or a coyote trotting alongside the highway can all work their way into a novel.
It’s impossible to quit thinking about it.
- It Tends to Steal Your Lunch Money
Do bullies still do this?
I remember going to school with exactly $1.75 cents in my pocket. Just enough money for a hot lunch and a carton of milk. When the cashier scanned my ID and I reached into my pocket, my fingers went through a hole in the denim.
My face flamed as the snickering started. “Should have been paying attention instead of scribbling in that ratty notebook, huh?”
I went hungry that day.
Writing isn’t as obvious as young thieves, but sometimes writing related expenses can still creep up unannounced. That 5 inch binder for your printed manuscript? $15. Sticky notes? $4. Overpriced coffee from the café by work? Too much.
Printer ink? It would be cheaper to print that thing in human blood.
- Self-Confidence? What’s That?
Kids are cruel. There’s no way around that.
School, middle and high school especially, are marked by trials that constantly test self-confidence.
Life does the same thing in a variety of ways, and no one knows that better than a writer. Negative, even hostile reviews are often difficult to swallow, especially when they come from “well-meaning” friends or family. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is such an individual experience, having words that took months, maybe even years, to put together scrutinized in an offhand way can hurt.
But no one is harder on a writer than the writer themselves.
Surviving the slews of insults, days of crippling self-doubt, and nights where nothing in the world seems to be going right builds up some of that self-confidence many youngsters had chipped away. It’s a slow journey, and it’s okay to feel at the bottom sometimes. On those days, though, remember no one is harsher than you.
- Life Lessons
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”Ray Bradbury
I hate the old cliché, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Trials are difficult. They’re not fun. Strength is an arbitrary attribute to assign to them. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger, but it does shape you.
Every life experience, no matter if it’s dealing with a jerk on the playground or a character that won’t shut up when it’s time for some shut-eye, will have some sort of effect on the world around you.
If we’re all clay, writing is one of the hands shaping us writers into who we’re to become. It’s part of how we can survive and thrive day-to-day.
In the words of Ray Bradbury, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Stare down that story a little bit more.
Maybe you’ll find it’s not so difficult after all.