Starting in kindergarten and continuing through much of elementary school, my teachers used to read stories to us. They would sit on creaky, colorful stools at the front of the classroom while my classmates and I would sit in a circle around them, attentively listening to the story. I remember filling in the details and the images of the story in my head. It was a guided daydream. The story would continue in my head, make me sleepy, and give me ideas about what my friend and I would do later that afternoon: build our own stories together. My childhood best friend and I were inseparable for most of school until I switched to a public middle school in 6th grade. We were outcasts for the most part in those early years, and to spend the time, we would constantly make up our own little worlds and stories to ourselves. We rarely wrote them out on paper at first, as our writing skills were subpar. We were both in after-care, where the teachers would watch over us for a few hours after school ended if our parents couldn’t pick us up until then. At after-care, they had a whole set of these off-brand giant, colorful Legos, which had little clips on the ends, so you could attach them together and make different sorts of sculptures and creations. We would make creatures, mostly. The one I remember most was a spiky bear-wolf-dragon amalgam.
We would sit there for the entirety of after-care, making up stories, doing voices, and making our own creations. As we got older, some of the plots just became too good, and we really wanted to write them down so we wouldn’t forget. As I’d done with so many of my ideas in the past, I would create little books by taking several pieces of printer paper, folding them in half, and stapling them. I made so many of these books this way, both about our stories we’d make, and about my own stories. There’s a large cardboard box under my bed back home in Louisiana that contains all these books, with such illustrious titles such as “Penguin Party” and “Mr. Squirrel.”
As with everything, time warps opinion. As I wrote those books as a kid, I remember thinking:
“This is who I want to be. This is what I am going to do. I am really good at coming up with stories.”
Now, I’m not so sure. My writing is my strength, today, and it’s the thing that I’m hoping to use to secure a career. But the inspiration is gone. Those childhood dreams don’t appear anymore. Instead, my inspiration is coated with thoughts like: “Has someone else done this? Is this too cliché? Is this too simple? Is this good enough?”
When I wrote those stories as a kid, it was for fun. It was to show my parents to see if they thought it was cool. The pressure wasn’t there—the pressure of knowing that my ability as a writer is directly impacting my ability to make a living. The pressure of being genuine, of being sincere, of being truly creative.
My creativity is too clouded by reality. One of the being-an-adult revelations I had is that my two main and only hobbies are playing video games and writing: two hobbies fully rooted in the imagination. I write to leave the real world for a second, a world filled with disappointment, failure, and pain, to a world filled with whatever I make of it. I play games to fill my brain with something else. In video games, you’re the hero for a while. When you write, you’re the god of that universe. Since I was a kid, it’s why I wanted to write—to escape reality.