How I earned my stories (and why I write).

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I have experienced all that life has to offer.  I’ve been fat and thin, fit and soft, old and young.  I loved and lost, then loved again.  I pondered, feared, and wondered.  In the end, I earned the stories I have to tell the hard way: by living them.

The irony is that I never wanted to be a writer.  Oh, I didn’t try to avoid it or anything.  I just always assumed that writing was something that other people did.  I mean, one hundred and twenty thousand words, all in a row?  There was no way I could do that.

Then my life fell apart.  I don’t often talk about why I got started writing; it’s because I was bullied.  I got singled out, stalked online and in person, but never in a way that was criminal.  It was always just enough to leave me unable to do a single thing about it – unless I had a lot of money.  The worst part was that my job, my business, and my entire life was crumbling around me because of the lies.

I supposedly committed tax fraud, abused animals, immigrated illegally (for the record, Iowa is still part of the USA).  You name it, I was accused of it, until no one wanted to be anywhere near me.  I was toxic.  If you showed any sympathy to me then you were next, and my attacker had an entire herd of followers willing to say anything she wanted, scream it louder, and make sure it was noticed first.  I was lost, alone, and unable to see a future where I’d ever be happy again.  I also wasn’t a child.  At my age, bullying is something people protect their children from, not suffer themselves!

girl-1098609I couldn’t go online anywhere without hiding who I was.  I gamed – because that was one world where my attacker had little control, but I had to stay vigilant.  It became so exhausting that I eventually decided to just stop.  I couldn’t take anymore.  I was willing to do whatever it took to end the suffering.  My time was spent daydreaming about what the world would be like without me.

And then I said something.

My husband shielded me from the world, picking up the slack so I could just hide and heal.  My best friend launched into action, going so far as to balance my bills and handle the daily chores that I just couldn’t care about anymore.  The two closest people in my life never asked for a single thing back.  They just told me to do whatever I had to so I could heal my mind.

And sitting right there in front of me was a keyboard.

I’ve always loved typing.  As a gamer, I learned to do it fast, sending out orders for a raid, trash talking the “jerk” who managed to get a clean kill on me, or holding a dozen conversations at once to keep my guild running smoothly.  As an artist, I always thought it felt like letting my fingers dance.  When I started, I typed about 100wpm.  Today, I’ve more than doubled that.  My writing programs clock me at an average of 220wpm.  It was one thing I could do well and needed to stop feeling like a failure.

So I started writing a story.  I honestly never thought I’d finish it.  This was just something to do to pass the time.  Some way to show that I wasn’t bad at everything.  One month later, the rough draft was done and I was onto the second book in the series.  Then the third, fourth, another series, and more.

It felt like the gates to my imagination had opened.  As an atheistic science-loving pragmatist, I spent my life in love with just the facts, but now?  Now I was losing my misery in imaginary worlds.  I could slay my demons, fight battles so much easier to explain than my own, and always come out the victor.  For the first time in months, I found myself living again.

I’m not really sure when it happened.  I can’t put my finger on the moment of change, but change it did.  I went from being so miserable to enjoying life – to a point.  It didn’t take long to see that I’d traded one obsession for another.  Instead of working to avoid others, now I was working to finish the next book, to create something good enough to share, and to learn every single thing about writing ever.  On the outside, I looked better, but I was still brittle and writing had become my crutch.

I’m still learning, but a few years down the road, I’ve also figured out that life is about so much more than the carrot hanging in my face.  It’s about kissing my man, hugging my dogs, and having a few too many drinks with my best friend.  It’s about debates that rage hard and fast but are filled with giggles and those quiet moments when the world could just pause for a little longer so I can memorize every detail.

I got a tattoo.  I dyed my hair blue, then red, then magenta, and eventually orange.  I got another tattoo.  I stopped worrying about whether or not that was professional, proper, or something women “my age” shouldn’t do.

In the end, I’d been all the way down to rock bottom and clawed my way back up with the help of the two best people I have ever known.  My excesses are my battle scars.  I lived.  I learned.  And now I have the stories to share.  I know what it feels like to wish I was dead.  I know how bad it hurts to lose everything.  I’ve felt the joy of love and the anguish of failure.  Looking back, I can almost taste each and every emotion, and they flavor my stories, adding in that truth my readers can feel.

For me, it’s a reminder that no matter how bad it gets, all we have to do is say something.  Those impenetrable walls around our emotions hold in the pain – they never keep it out.  Once they’re shattered, then the light can finally get in, the story can come out…

And beautiful things happen.

Today, I’m happy.  My life may not look perfect to anyone else, but it is to me.  My complaints are pathetic, but those dreams still live on.  I have worlds still waiting to be built.  I have challenges to face with a clear head and glowing keyboard.  I have stories to tell, and while I might slow down just a bit, I still plan on telling every single one.

Because who knows.  Maybe somewhere out there is another person hiding from the real world, looking for a fantasy to help them make it just a little bit longer.  It’s now my job to throw open the doors and invite them in.

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