The Write Thing

I’ve realized that if you look at what I actually do, and the way my mind works, at this point I can legitimately call myself a writer. It’s funny–I probably could have started thinking of myself as such as a young English major, or when I was writer-in-chief for “Liberal Arts” the first time around, or when we wrote and toured “Grind” and outside audiences saw it, or when I wrote two-thirds of a young adult novel and half of another one, or when I started this blog, or when I’d been blogging for a year–

But somehow I’m just internalizing it now. I’ve realized that I now look at shows and movies far more from a writer’s standpoint (“Look at how beautifully they set up this plot point!”) than from an actor’s (“Look how minimal Tobey Maguire’s acting is in ‘Spider-man!'”). I can tell by a description of a subject whether it would be best suited to a play, a TV series, a movie, or a short story. I laugh out loud at the playful way in which Dickens constructs his sentences. I LAUGH AT SYNTAX, GUYS.

I’ve always been sort of a jill-of-all trades. You know, master of none, someone unwilling to devote herself to one pursuit because there are so many cool things in the world. “Renaissance Woman” is the nice way of putting it. There are just so many things I want to do–make mosaics and write songs and play Olivia in “Twelfth Night” and design clothes and write a novel and learn everything there is to know about Hinduism. When I was a little girl, I was going to be a singer-actor-writer…scientist. Explorer? Academic. And I still can’t–no, I refuse to–decide to settle down upon one.

When I look back to see where this whole “writing” thing came from, it’s not as clear as the “acting and singing” thing. I was running around making up songs as soon as I could run and sing, and I performed in my first play in preschool (I was an iris in “Chicken Little.” You may not remember how vitally important the flowers were to that story, but I do). Sure, I loved to read, but I thought of that as closer to a dream of imagining what it was like to be other people and then acting like them to tell a story than to imagining the same and then telling other people what they did and said to get across that story.

My mom, actually, played a bigger part in this than she might even remember. One day I brought home some story I’d written for school, la de da, and she read it. She and my dad always supported my theatrical tendencies, but when my mom read my story and said, “You know, Lo, you should be a writer,” there was something in her voice that sounded different than when she said I’d done a great job as the queen in the fairy-tale play the fourth grade put on. Maybe it was just that she thought “writer” was a better job prospect than “actor.” She was famously nervous, as I later learned, that trying to become an actress would mean that I would start working at an S&M bar as a dominatrix.* But I listened, and I remembered that.

You know how you ask most writers how they became writers and they say, “Oh, well, from a very early age I wrote voraciously, I had written hundreds of poems by age 16 and a novel by 18” or some scheiss like that?  I wasn’t that kid. Like I said, I read a lot–all the time, often while walking, which I still do and for which you can still rightfully tease me. But I was way more excited about choir and plays than about sitting alone and writing stuff down. Oh, I did some kickin’ song parodies, like “Pi Pi Pi” (based on N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye”) for Pi Day. But it actually took a more social activity to get me excited about writing for an entire summer.

NERD ALERT: DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU’RE NOT RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT I’M A HUGE NERD

Aiight so. My friend Colleen and I loved the Harry Potter books, like everyone everywhere. However, she was the one who found out that there were people out there who wrote stories about the Wizarding world, involving characters from the books, and then shared them with other people. She showed me FanFiction.net and told me that I should try my hand at it. I wrote some dumb Mary Sue story about a Muggle girl living next door to the Dursleys who notices some weird things going on in the house next door, and got a bunch of strangely positive comments, and thought, “Okay, this is really dorky but kind of fun.” Then Colleen took it one step further. She told me that she had joined a collective, LiveJournal (later GreatestJournal)-based Harry Potter RPG group in which you write journal entries as your character and then collaboratively write scenes with other characters in which you write your character’s dialogue and they write theirs. They needed a Professor McGonagall, and she thought I was the perfect candidate. I rolled my eyes a little bit and said sure, I’d try it out.

Two weeks later I’m embroiled in a forbidden love story between McGonagall and Snape in which they take potions that transform them into their seventeen-year-old selves and all kinds of heart-throbbing circumstances ensue. Staying up late at night to write with the girl who played Severus. Heart pounding, wondering what he–well, she–was going to say next, and how Min would react to it. Living inside this fictional world for a summer, completely wrapped up in new plotlines and developments.

Nerdy as hell? Yup. Ridiculously exciting for a bored 16-year-old? You betcha. And suddenly it wasn’t me sitting down in an empty room and writing something that maybe no one would see. It was me sitting down, connected online to someone who would immediately see what I was writing and respond to it, like some kind of improvisation. That’s when the collaborative writing bug bit me.

From there, it wasn’t so hard to write a three-part pseudo-slash story for my college paper that had a ridiculously complex structure, or to commit to National Novel Writing Month, or to try to shepherd six people into one room to get closer to a fully-imagined musical. It got easier to see the choices the authors of my favorite books were making. It got easier to see the “rules” and to figure out what was satisfying and unsatisfying in a plot. And most important, it was possible for me to see writing as pure play, as something exciting and silly and fun that could fail utterly at amusing anyone but me or could end up much more successful than I’d planned.

So where does this take us? Who knows? I’m not published yet. I still largely write collaboratively, although I’ve got a few projects on the side. I don’t want to give up on acting or music, I don’t have time to try to write a novel and send query letters out while developing a theatre company, and I don’t see the miraculous “quit your day job” period of my life coming up any time soon.

I guess for now I’ll just keep reading and keep trying to carve out time to write down the things in my head. Which, why hello, is what having this blog is all about. Look at that. Y’all make me a writer, by the sheer fact that someone (read: my parents and roommate) expects a new blog post every Tuesday and Thursday.

Well gee, folks. Thank you for that.

Oh, and if you’re wondering: Min and Severus never did get together as adults. But she found an old lost love from her time working in Haiti on the voudon circuit, so it all went okay in the end.

*True story, happened to my dad’s godson’s roommates.

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