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(photo courtesy of Revital Salomon, Wikimedia Commons)
(photo courtesy of Revital Salomon, Wikimedia Commons)

On some days, it comes easily. My mind is a harsh scrawl of bright ink, frazzled, frenzied, and I have to scribble down words as they jump to the forefront of my head like a flashbulb going off — discombobulated phrases, random lines of dialogue that some character will say at some point in some distant work, words that sound pretty, words that sound ugly, vague descriptions, settings. There are so many ideas.

On other days, not so much. I hunch over my desk for hours. Nothing comes to the keyboard. I don’t break the tip of my newly-sharpened pencil. My creative faucet needs some plumbing, and there’s no telling when I’ll be able to turn the sink on again. Unless, of course, inspiration strikes me at some time that’s entirely inconvenient, such as at three in the morning, in which case I will rouse from sleep and jot down my idea on the pad of Post-its I keep on my bedside table solely for that purpose.

Writing is quite a process. I can’t imagine someone deciding to undertake the ordeal unless, like me, some mischievous demon is behind the steering wheel, cackling every time it runs through a stoplight. I am a tree abuser. I ask for a new notebook every other week and, in the time between, fill it with poems, short stories, character studies, plot outlines. If there’s something I need more than a notebook, it’s an eraser — forget the tiny ones on pencils. They’re worn down within an hour. I need the heavy-duty kind — the big pink ones, but I like the multicolored, patterned ones, because at least they get to look pretty for a little before I put them to use. I scratch plot holes out, rewrite, rename, and emerge from my room the following morning looking like I had a duel to the death with my pillow and barely came out on top.

“That doesn’t sound fun at all,” you say. But hey — I’m happy about it. And when I’m not, I write.

I write because I have to do it. It’s ingrained in my bones, always in the back of my mind. I’m never lonely; my stories are with me. I never keep anything bottled up inside; I let it pour from pen to paper. For a long time, I believed that there was not so much a lack of joy in the world, but that I wasn’t worthy of seeing it, of experiencing it, and writing opened me up to a whole new wealth of emotions, of inner potential. It made me realize that if I wanted the joy in the world, I couldn’t sit around and wait for it to come to me. I had to reach out and grab it and tell it that it was going to be mine someday and that I was going to do everything I could to have it. Writing breathed life into me, and because of it, I’m alive to write today.

By Hayley Sigmon, 2015 Thomas Wolfe Scholarship winner

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