In 2018’s Last Breath, I Remembered Why I Started Writing to Begin With

In childhood, I daydreamed in crystal-clear Technicolor. The entire world was sharper, fresher, and more intoxicating than it ever could be again. Recently, when I looked back at my old poetry from the halcyon days of youth, I wasn’t surprised to find that it was injected with a passionate vision that I could only dream of replicating with my tired 27-year-old brain.

That’s right: As an adult who supports myself entirely by writing, the burnout is undeniable. And no matter how close I get to finally finishing my novel, no matter how much money I rake in from clients around the world, the exhaustion seeps through. The crystal-clear Technicolor of childhood daydreams was recorded on a VHS tape from 1996, and its age is starting to show—my words are dripping with the ghosts of everything I longed for as a kid, and the boundless intensity of youth has been replaced by somber, nihilistic realism.

After reflecting on all this, my reverence for the passion-fueled rants of yore grew so severe that I briefly found myself wallowing in my old poems rather than creating new ones. But then, I realized how futile this would be—and suddenly, I knew all I had to do to reignite my passion was to remember why I started writing to begin with.

Words are a Fog-Covered Window into the Past

During the endless summers of childhood, many times, my only responsibility for the entire week was writing a poem about unrequited love. I didn’t have to worry about paying the electric bill or feeding my dog, and the whimsy bled through every sentence of my work. Although the subject matter is heavy, the words dripped with the freedom and lack of foresight that only an angsty kid with no real relationship experience could produce.

Take, for example, the intro to this poem I wrote at the tender age of 13:

This silence consumes me, it can’t be the end
of our starcrossed, vindictive game of pretend!
This climax is futile, my love only grew,
your path leads to me while my road leads to you.
My wings are now weathered, a voice fades away,
The sound of that voice was what led me astray.
I’ll follow it blindly past all that is true,
and I’ll only pray that it takes me to you.

Even a decade and a half later, I can vaguely remember what it felt like to be the weirdest kid in my class, with no one to turn to aside from internet friends—and this poem captures that like nothing else. It’s a testament to the sense of isolation that haunted me in 8th grade, and still gnaws at me to this day—my teenage angst, immortalized.

After reading this, and some of my other early works, it didn’t take much speculation to remember why I started writing to begin with: Because I was fueled by emotions I didn’t yet understand, that threatened to devour me completely. When my parents couldn’t accept the intensity of my emotions, and my friends didn’t understand what the hell was wrong with me, writing was the only way I could vent the emotions that were eating me alive.

So How Did It All Begin? As an Escape, of Course.

The decision to begin writing wasn’t a conscious one: As cliché as it sounds, I never chose to be a writer at all—instead, when I entered middle school, I naturally gravitated towards online communities centered around roleplaying. The words on the screen were the single, solitary thing that connected me to my only real friends, at the time. I quickly learned that by pouring my soul into forum posts, and MSN messenger windows, and hastily-written DeviantArt poems, I could connect with other kids around the world who were going through the same woes as me.

Through roleplaying, I quickly learned I was a natural at character development: Which I would later apply to countless short stories, and finally, my first science fiction novel. When I didn’t have the words for my depression or anxiety, my characters did. If my problems “weren’t big enough” to justify the avalanche of emotions that they inevitably caused, the issues my much-older, stronger, male characters faced were.

I no longer had to feel embarrassed while I awkwardly tried to explain my own “minor” issues to clueless adults or nervous classmates—instead, my emotions were projected onto my characters, who died for my sins tenfold. I learned that it felt good to splay out all their pain and crucify them, to force them into the roll of the unwilling martyr instead of me.

Writing was a way for me to express my pain, at long last, without being silenced by others. It was a way for me to overcome the harsh, unforgiving judgments of my parents and teachers once and for all. Although all of them essentially failed me by sweeping my depression under the rug and telling me it was normal to feel like I couldn’t deal with life 85% of the time, through writing, I could escape that. Suddenly, I was an immortal demon king with a list of betrayals and heartbreaks a mile long.

And then, like magic, I wasn’t an angsty little girl anymore, and my pain meant something.

Art of my character: Vraethir, Imperator of Evermorn ~ By Varen Kirby

My One Shot at Glory and My Only Choice

Writing is transformation. Writing is freedom from the doldrums of reality. Writing will replenish your tired soul with visions of all you were meant to be, and more. I knew this when my obsession with writing first sprung up at age 12 just as thoroughly as I know it now. And although in the early days, I came crawling back to writing to escape from reality . . . Over a decade later, I’ve learned to shape my reality with words rather than hide behind them.

I am a freelance writer now, no matter how badly my mom wanted me to be a doctor or a scientist. I don’t know if she’ll ever be proud of me, and for the first time in over a decade, I can say I don’t care. I didn’t choose to be a writer, but I always have been, and I always will be. It’s my one shot at glory and my only choice. In my dreams I sway the masses with the visions of other worlds that have haunted me since childhood—and my track record of bringing my dreams to life has been pretty good thus far. After all, writers are known for their uncanny, eerie mastery of visualization.

My Perfect Vision of Alien Beauty

The world I envisioned in my mind as a child never fully came to pass, but I find traces of it at my fingertips even now—shadowed wisps, long-forgotten ghosts of an era I still revisit in my nightmares. These ghosts remind me that I didn’t start writing to drag myself through endless trenches of business copy, but to bring visions of war-torn alien worlds to life.

stars and clouds at nighttime
Photo by Arnie Chou on

In an attempt to navigate a world I wasn’t made for, I fell off the path and tried to be a run-of-the-mill copywriter: But in 2018, I remembered why I started writing to begin with. It takes me back to a time of isolation, and loneliness, and longing for a place I could never touch . . . A time I never really left, even though for a while I pretended I had. But now, for the first time ever, I’m glad to be a permanent resident of the realm of endless melancholy—although the rent is steep, the scenery fuels my inspiration like nothing else.

My novel is almost finished: 130,000 words of pure black chaos that would have made my 12-year-old self salivate with delight. And instead of burying it in the shadows, like I did with all my writing out of timid, childish shame for half my life, this story will be my shield: My greatest accomplishment, my perfect vision of alien beauty, my lifelong burden.

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