Before I applied to graduate school, I looked for mementos as hard as I asked for stories—any sign from my childhood years telling me that writing has always been a part of me. There was no poetry on a Father’s Day card, no anecdote about a crayon-scribbled sentence on the wall, and no diary that housed my after school mischief. I traced back to the little girl’s potential just so I could justify this woman’s decision to dedicate her life to the craft. An assurance that writing is not a mere phase but a calling.
I wrote my first essay in fourth grade. Since then, I had a longer writing hiatus than actually writing. “I write sometimes” was my usual reply when questions about my passion were raised. It was a telling mark on my lack of dedication to the craft, a far cry on the lengths that people go through to bring their truth on paper.
Like most young writers, love and the anguish that comes with loving someone were the forces that drove me to pick up a pen again. The bliss of having written, however, kept the pages turning. At twenty-four, I entered the doors of the university’s Literature Department, right hand clutching a brown envelope filled with prose and poetry that found a home in my bedside drawer. It took me fourteen years to realize that art is meant to be shared, not sheltered. At that moment, I decided to be brave and called myself a writer.
To be a writer, they say, is to choose a life of perpetual solitude and discontent. You will spend late nights up to the early mornings trying to make a fleeting moment last, making the nonexistent exist. You will learn that words will sometimes fail you. You will fail them, too. There are people who will choose not to read your works. There are stories that publishers will choose not to publish. There will be days when your muse will decide to leave you in the middle of a page.
In times of uncertainty, to write is to find an answer. The form that words take is a response to nothingness.
In times of chaos, to write is to find order. The rhythm when words sing is the sound away from disarray.
I looked for mementos as hard as I asked for stories. “When you were a kid, you wouldn’t sleep without hearing a bedtime story,” my mother said. Apparently I longed to hear stories even then. I did not grow up writing, I grew up listening. Through listening, I fell in love with the resonance of words. It was the same love that left my pointer finger in between the pages of a novel so I could catch my breath. The same love that had me walking on the way to class on a Saturday morning with twelve copies of my manuscript ready to be read by others. It dawned on me that stories are no longer my hiding place, but where I find myself.