I write “He walked away and closed the door, silently on his way. And then there was a line on the path they had shared, on the path they had walked together, on the way between their hearts. That highway had become obscured by smoke and words, slippery with mud and dreams and unlit from misconceptions long before it was abandoned.” and it feels right.
I write “He hesitated. His lantern illuminated only a fraction of the dark in front of him. Its twin was gone before the door.” and it feels like my heart bleeds onto the page and yet I’m completely fine as my fingers stroke the keyboard.
I write “She opened the door and a second lantern banished the shadows, the doubts, the words. She passed a hand to him and he took it. Both lanterns, bright now. The highway still under construction but now illuminated, the pitfalls visible, the space not so dark, not so full of monsters, not so lonely.” and I stop and put a period. And then I write “The End.” and that is that and the story is finished, but it never is. Because it didn’t die with the final words. It didn’t die when I closed the document.
I’m 6 and I watch movies with my parents and I wonder at the stories of damsels in distress and heroes who save them.
I’m 10 and I’m enamoured by dramatic films and all the conditions of the human soul displayed in front of me.
I’m 14 and I finally pick up a book of my own free volition, not a school requirement and I see the stories can be interesting. Can be real as the ones on the screen and often even more as you get an exclusive glance behind the actions, behind the eyes.
I’m 15 and I write and I finish and I send. And I dream and dream and dream in words and colour, in stories and scripts.
I’m 16 and my mom says “You can be a writer” and a strange feeling blooms inside of me. It tastes like hope but it doesn’t yet ring true. It is still murky and unclear.
I’m 17 and I can’t write. It feels as if with every year the act of writing becomes heavier. So much meaning could be included, so many stories to be told. But which ones should I tell?
I’m 18 and I have to choose a path. A path to follow for the rest of my life. A calling. A career. A lifestyle. A future.
And I know but I don’t know. I’m sure but am I? It is murky. I think Film and Creative Writing could be the one but then it isn’t. None of the schools is right. None of the course descriptions, me.
And I think and I think and I think and think and I research. And I find it. Film and Television with a large pinch of scriptwriting, something none of the other universities offered.
And I remember all the crime TV series I watched with my dad and all the series in all the genres I watched alone.
I think and I remember all the drama and romance films I shared with my mom, all the stories we both love even though we are wholly different. We share the same eyes and hair and stubbornness but that’s about it.
I’m 19 and I start my course. My future. My career. My life path. My lifestyle.
And it’s scary and it isn’t and I learn a lot and it’s not 100% tailor-made for me but I learn about stories about how they rule the world. And sure that is not what the lecturers are saying as they talk about toxic masculinity and Classic Hollywood, as they point at white-washed films and films so hard to watch for the truth they bring.
They teach me concepts and structure and techniques. How to operate a camera and what a script needs to have, what a script shouldn’t have. And in every book about Cinematography and Directing the principles are clear. But in every book about scriptwriting they change from book to book, from lecturer to lecturer, one writer to the other and no one agrees on anything.
And it is confusing and it is wonderful.
They all structure stories and organize scripts and there are beats and measures and your script has to fit them all but it doesn’t cause it can break the norms if it’s good.
For all the wisdom they give me, I still take one thing from myself.
Story. A story cannot be contained within 3 beats, 8 beats, 16 beats. It can but it can’t.
Because the story is there on the page, in the file. Submitted, sent, it’s in their hands.
But the story doesn’t die. We all see it differently. It lives in all of us who touch it - with shaky hands above a keyboard, with steady hands holding a page, with questing eyes searching the screen for clues, for truth, for wisdom.
And maybe everyone sees it or no one does but it is sentient in a way…
I’m 20 and that feeling is back. It is no longer murky. It is clear and it is scary and it is real. But I cannot explain it.
I’m 16, I'm 18, I’m 20 and all the ages in between.
And I hear “A story should be about you if you want it to be real, to ring true.”
And I hear “Write from your own perspective…own perspective…own experience…own knowledge…about something you know” and the voices are different and the voices are many and they all say different words but mean the same thing.
My perspective, but what is my perspective, I think. I’ve lived a boring life. Conquered a few stones, saw a few countries, moved once then twice. Experienced friendship and love and loss and disappointment.
But my story wasn’t interesting. I had not met many people. I had not experienced almost anything for the years I had lived. I was no one.
And yet I kept on writing cause every time I stopped to take a breath their words were there, my doubts followed. Every time I stopped, their criticism hit or the lack of it.
“Your story is good…good…good,” they said without reading it.
“Your script is good…great…good,” they said when only glancing at one page.
“Ok, but why,” I asked and they said the same like a broken record stuck in a forever loop.
No explanation. Never any explanation as to why it’s good or it’s bad. No guiding light for me to follow.
And then I stopped.
Because nothing was ever completely my own experience.
The characters were not made out of real people. They lived in me but they weren’t me. Most of them didn’t have even a glimpse of me or them - my friends and family.
I’d broken all the norms. Every single one.
And everything was good or everything was bad and I never knew why.
I was reading a book and the feeling was back and it was strong and it was scary.
And then I needed to write but I stopped after a few words every single time because I didn’t know where I was going, what I was feeling, what the characters were meant to do, to be, to represent. What was the message? And the story?
And I started planning… A Book of all things easy to write I could have chosen.
I planned it and It was perfect and I was ready and started…
The words weren’t coming.
The message was there.
The story was built.
But it wasn’t me, was it?
And the voices were back, saying the same old things.
My perspective, my perspective, my perspective…
What did my perspective have to do with a fantasy book?
Who was I with my boring boring life?
And then someone said that my perspective was everything I was, not just the history written in the years. Someone I never saw again.
I started thinking about me and everything else that wasn’t me.
About the stories, I had written and the ones I wasn't able to.
And I realized my experiences weren’t just history as the past, present and future had so many facets.
All the books I have read.
All the films I have seen.
All the series I binged or watched over the years.
All the characters I loved…
All the experiences I lived…
All the thoughts I nourished…
I was all that and none of it at all.
I was what I chose to be…
…at the given moment.
And the characters I did create, and the ones that were only lined and left with all my sketches, they were me, but they were more. They were shaped and remained blank in a way for the person who would see them, read them, watch them live.
I was 8, I was 12, I was 14, I was 20 and all the ages in between.
And I dreamt.
I laid in the dark and watched the characters I had seen and read live behind my eyes in stories I had never seen or not yet written.
They gave me comfort.
They made me understand.
But I was awake.
Because for all I was and I wasn’t, I could never dream in sleep and retain the image and the story.
And for years, I thought it was a shame.
But then I realized, I dreamt harder than anyone I knew but I was awake.
My course wasn’t a waste as it showed me all the stories that needed to be told, and all the people who were stripped of their voices. They were screaming but the world couldn’t hear them, wouldn't hear them.
They weren’t me and I wasn’t them. But I could listen and I could write their stories. And they were so many.
I could plug the truth from their lips, their hearts and their eyes without even a word being spoken between us.
I could read, read, read, read and see…and read some more to be sure it was the truth.
I could see their silence, hear the unspoken truths.
I could read between the lines and in time…write between them too.
Because of all the dreaming I had done and would later do.
But the writing was the problem.
And it was no longer my perspective that was the agenda. It was theirs.
For all I was and I wasn't, my story didn’t matter. My words did.
And then I knew…
I was a storyteller.
And the feeling I had had for longer than I could remember, finally took shape.
The veil dropped and I was standing naked with my soul in my hands, ready to be shredded by the world.
And I knew that the world wouldn't want to hear my stories. It would want to tell its stories, the marketable ones. The same stories it had always told.
But maybe now there would be space. I lived in a new age of storytelling where people did not only talk about equality but they talked about understanding, knowledge and illuminating the problems of representation, shoved under the carpet for years and stepped on for what seemed like an eternity.
So I tried.
I tried to finish my book. But it wasn’t mine in the sense that you own a pair of glasses or a keyboard.
I was creating it, yes and I wanted it to be different. To tell a new story.
I don’t remember who said that there were no new stories but the same stories just retold differently but I remember their words whoever they were.
And it might be stupid but…
I believe in praising the work of art itself rather than the person behind it.
Not because they do not deserve recognition, they do, massively.
But I think it should be gratifying enough to have one’s work recognized, appreciated and related to because I believe there is no other praise for the author that can be bigger than that. As we all throw pebbles into an endless pond and we hope that one just sticks. That the splash is just big enough to make a difference. To change the world.
I’d like to say here that I finished the book but I haven’t yet because as stories still live everywhere and are still important, telling them is still not an easy job.
And the feeling that I had and still have, the knowledge it gave me without any explanation, did not make it easier.
To know I need to be a writer.
I need to tell other people’s stories…
…and my own.
And I know my story is unorthodox because such stories are always written after the person becomes a star both metaphorically and literally. But this story is not about me, it is about you.
Your fear of writing. Your doubts. Because I feel it too and probably many others do.
I won't tell you not to be afraid because you won't believe me. I wouldn't believe me. But keep on writing because...
Picking the right words is never easy, not when there are so many stories to be told from so many perspectives. But that only means they need to be told more times.
So how do you choose just one? Please tell me because I pick mine with a gut feeling.
And I plunge into the darkness, one step at a time. Hoping the ground won’t collapse underneath me, and knowing that it will.
But that would be fine as it might make a good story.
I wonder if when I finally finish my book and if by a miracle manage to sell it, people would ask me “How did you choose to be a writer?” as I have asked myself hundred times before when people around me struggled to choose their own paths, their careers and lives.
And I think I would say ”I didn’t choose it. I just knew it. Or maybe it chose me.” Because for all the things I do believe and I don’t believe, I am always unsure if there is such a thing as destiny. Or is life just a series of chances and choices? I hope I made the right choice with the keyboard but wonder if there was ever any choice for me.
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Hi Kalina, Thanks for sharing your story - both literally and figuratively. I can barely remember being 20, and yet your piece still resonated with me today. Keep writing. Both readers and writers need what you are offering.
Thank you very much, Kiera!
Wow.... I feel like this was written for me. I needed this I just didn't know I did. I knew this, i just didn't have the words to express it.
Thank you so much! I felt very here and there about whether to post this story but your comment tells me it was worth it.