Oh, The Squalor

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Can you see the squalor?

I love stories.  I love stories.

Stories are remarkable.  There is simply nothing like them.

They have the power to capture you, to truly take hold of you.  They can break your heart. They can be instructive.  They have the power to inspire.  Stories can leave you aching to re-live them for months, years, longer.

I was the guy who dreamt of stories all day.  It was probably pathologic.  Time has gone on, but even as my life and responsibilities changed, I brought my characters and their adventures with me.  They have grown as I have.

I started writing in high school.  I wrote on the side when a particular reading or writing assignment piqued my interest.  I wrote fiction and non-fiction.  I contributed to and became an editor for the school newspaper.

It got serious during my senior year English seminar.  We had a final creative writing project that was to be 12-18 pages long.

I fell into the story.  I was hooked, and I was hooked bad.

I couldn’t help it.

I ended up handing my teacher a fifty page long monstrosity that I’d left single spaced to hide its length.

A few weeks later, my teacher handed it back.  He wrote on it, “A, if I could give higher grades, I would.  Come see me.”  When I went to see him, his praise was effusive.  He told me that if I continued to write, one day he would be buying my work on bookshelves.

Those words meant everything to me, and I imagined myself as a writer.  I mean, sure I knew that I couldn’t actually be a writer.  Everyone told me there was no money in it, no stability, and it couldn’t be a career job.

But I imagined myself as one, and I told myself that whatever I did, I would write on the side.

Somewhere along the way, I started writing less and less.  I grew up, and my responsibilities increased.  College came and went, and I barely wrote.  I entered medical school, and that was a virtual death knell in my writing output.  Sure, I wrote from time to time, on the occasion that the mood struck me.  But the mood struck me less and less, and my output dwindled to almost nothing.

Until last year.

At the beginning of my third year of medical school, I realized I hadn’t produced a single page of writing in months, nearly a year.

The third year of medical school was an incredibly transformative time for me; it is the year medical students must decide what type of doctor they want to be.

I took that decision much further.  Who did I want to be?

I wanted to be a writer.  I knew that in my core.  I had always known that.  I would become a doctor too, but I would follow my first love.  Whatever I was to be, that person would be a writer.

I also realized there would always be demands on my time and that the demands of yesterday and today are no different than the demands of tomorrow and the day after.

In college my excuse had been that I was taking difficult pre-med courses and would have time later.  In medical school my excuse was that I was constantly pursuing medicine.  I knew that after medical school there would be residency.  Later, a family, children.

There would always be excuses.  There would always be good ones.

And if the excuses – good or bad – kept me from writing, I would never be a writer.

So I made rules.

Every day, I produce a single spaced page of writing in 12 point font.

Every day.

I made this rule in December of 2014, and I have not missed a day since.

Some days have been difficult.  It was hardest in the beginning.

Some days I drag a single, crummy, rotten, no-good, turd of a page out of my skull.  Other days, five will flow onto the page before I even realize I’ve begun.

The road has been bumpy, and I know it always will be.

But now, I can say I am a writer.

Oh The Squalor is a site for writers who are trying to find their way and develop their craft. I hope to build a strong community here where we can support each other, and I also hope to provide resources to help others start on the path and ultimately improve their writing.


Img: Graham Holliday

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