Square One

As a structured, coordinated and organized person, my greatest challenge as a writer was learning how to commit myself to paper. As backwards as it sounds, it was a difficultly that I faced daily. Giving myself room to be creative in such a structure was not something I was used to. I knew how to write, but I did not know how to write on such a scale, or from so many voices. I tried fruitlessly to schedule time that was strictly dedicated to brainstorming and writing, but those were times that ended up being spent with me, in front of my computer screen, writing and rewriting the same sentence six or seven times, but never moving forward. It was at the times when I least expected an idea to pop into my head that I found myself motivated. Those times came at the most inappropriate of hours: As I was driving on my way to school (late, of course), or in the middle of a midterm. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightening, a thought would burst into my mind, and in fear of losing it, I would stop whatever I was doing to catch it while it remained inside of me. At times, when I felt the creative chaos escaping, it felt as though I was literally pulling it back towards my atmosphere with the strength of my pen. It took all the power in the world to draw the ideas onto paper. It was physically and emotionally draining. I can never felt so satisfied or so tired in my life. 

To say the least, people around me were confused as to why I would suddenly disappear from conversations, or why my head was in space. One teacher actually kept me after class one day to ask me if everything was alright. He saw me struggling to keep up with the workload, and he assumed I was under a lot of pressure….and, I was, but not for the reasons he believed to be true. I was under pressure because I didn’t know how to stop forcing the ideas out. It was a pressure that I would apply in most stressful situations, but I learned that it was easier to let go then to stay locked in one position, hoping for an idea to come to mind.

The hardest part of the research process was keeping my lips locked. I am a person who likes to share a lot (usually too much). Of course, I told people who I felt needed to be told: my sister, my parents, my closest friends. I wanted them to share in the excitement of my new project. It shouldn’t have been surprising to me when most people shrugged it off. They believed it to be a ploy for me to stay distracted while my post high school fate hung in over my head like a pile of bricks. True, it was a blessing to be distracted, but it was about so much more than the need to disconnect from the world. The characters who lived within me were becoming more realistic by the second, and soon, it became time to bring them to life.

It took approximately three and a half months of research and motivation before I sat down to attempt the actual writing part of the process. I couldn’t go into the execution with some form of a basic game plan (although when I look back at it now, I truly had no idea what I was doing). Originally, the story was to take place in modern day San Francisco, the city of my birth. I very quickly found however, that my deep connection and ties to the city made it impossible for me to write about it without the novel becoming almost autobiographical. How could I write about San Francisco and not write about the many colorful characters that had played a role in my childhood? My heart belonged to the city, and it simply became impossible to fictionalize my hometown. So, I set off in search of the perfect place to bring my world to life. 

The story line, however, was clear: I was to follow the lives of four individuals as they took part in an investigation behind the death of a local salesman. They would share very little to no common ground, but one common thread would string them together in various ways: Their victimizing ways would turn them all, one by one, into monsters. These were people who could (and who did) live in the world around me. They were just as alive to me as any person that I encountered on a daily basis. Not only would they feel responsible for the murder that they witnessed, but they would, in turn, become the victims of the case. 

It was a power that I did not know I have, giving life and abilities to fictional people. But, it was so much more than that: I was giving them the ability to think and feel, to make decisions based on the blame they took on from others, based on the guilt they felt from the impact of others around them. Slowly but surely, then began to come to life.

Gorgeous, naive Ella, a woman living in the shadow of a lost mother….

Strong, logical Sarah, the therapist who can help everyone around her but cannot figure out how to work out her own life…..

The frail and tired Marco, a man who dedicated his time on earth to mourn the loss of his beloved wife…..

And lastly, Danny, the rebellious, petty criminal, cast away from his family who refuse to care for him and his dangerous methods….

They had names, faces, real lives. I had let go of everything I knew, every structure or schedule I had ever kept to, and became free.

And then, I began to create.