I spent most of the morning thinking through the next few scenes for my NaNoWriMo project. I'm over halfway to the goal, though not that far in the story. And it's been hard. Writing isn't easy, and once I finish the draft, I have a long way to go before it will be readable. So I asked myself, "Why do it do it?"
I never thought I'd be able to write fiction. I wanted to, sure. I spent my childhood living from story to story, escaping my world to be in someone else's--for a few minutes, an hour, a day. I wanted to get away whenever and however I could.
And I wrote. Diaries mostly. Poetry. Essays on life and love and God. I needed an outlet. I needed a way to make sense of a life I didn't want to be a part of--divorce, alcoholism, secrets. Lies. I needed a story because mine wasn't the one I wanted.
But it wasn't until college that I embraced my own story. That I let it be a part of me. I didn't think it mattered. My abuse, my betrayal. It wasn't enough. It wasn't as bad as what a lot of people went through. It wasn't as bad as what my mom went through. That's what she told me anyway.
That sort of thing hurts. It will destroy you if you let it. I took a memoir writing class instead.
It's a funny thing what happens when you own your pain, when you let all your secrets out. They can't hold you anymore.
I've gone way off course from my original question, but I think to get to the answer, I had to look at my own story. I had to stare it in the face and admit that it mattered, that no matter how big or small our pain and struggles, they shape us. But it's what we do with them that makes us who we are.
Those struggles? I faced them as a teen. I chose truth over comfort, over my mother's approval. Over my family name. And it hurt like hell.
I don't think people give teens enough credit for the choices they have to make, for how hard those choices are. Except for you guys. And I know a lot of you write contemporary. So you get it. I don't write contemporary. I write fantasy. I think part of it comes from my desire as a kid and a teen to have some sort magic. Maybe I thought it would help me escape or make things better. But even in the fantasies I've written, it isn't my characters' powers that makes them extraordinary. In the end it's their choices that shape them.
As adults we make choices. Hard ones, life altering ones. But it was the choices I made as a teen that gave me the foundation to make the decisions I make today.
Writing is hard. It tears my heart into pieces, leaving me broken on the floor. Then, I pick those pieces up and try to put them back together into some semblance of a story. Reading always did that to me, too. It still does. The teens in the books I read gave me perspective. They gave me courage. They gave me hope.
When I think about how brave I really was as a teenager--brave enough to stand up for the truth--I think about all those characters who taught me to be that way: Meg Murray, Hermione Granger, Edmund Pevensie. Without them, I don't know what choices I would have made.
That's why I write. But more specifically, that's why I write young adult.