Why I write

I often lose sight of my future. I always have. The thoughts take many forms that cause me to pause for too long at times, and at others, the thoughts have nearly made me stop existing all together. Thankfully, I survived those suicidal moments, but although those thoughts are far and few in between now, I still have those hopeless moments that cause me to stop everything. Except for writing.

I’ve written so many pages of dark emotion that are painful to read back. I’ve written so much fiction that at times it seems so real, and there are some things in my life that may seem like fiction to others on the page, but it’s very real. And through all of this, no matter how hopeless I feel, no matter how much I feel like no one will ever care but me, I can’t stop my fingers reaching for the keyboard. Just like they’re doing now.

When I started writing stories for fun as a kid at seven — shortly after learning to read and fall in love with books — I didn’t think too much about why I wrote. I just knew that it made me feel happy and it took me away from the real world for a while. So many amazing things could happen on paper that couldn’t in real life. I could spend time with my friend who’d moved away again. I could continue the stories of my favorite cartoon characters when the episodes were over for the afternoon. I’d forget there was even a reality around me at all.

I wrote during the lunch block in elementary school as the other kids stared at me and laughed, and to give myself something to do so I didn’t have to know that I was being bullied. I was the quiet kid everyone avoided because I was strange. I wrote all the time and had too much anxiety, and I was perfectly content being left in the corner of a room with my notebook and pen. None of the other kids understood it. They were busy sharing HitClips of Britney Spears and N*Sync and playing with Sky Dancers. Sharing Beanie Baby collections and making plans to hang out for the weekend. I liked that stuff too, but never really had anyone to share those things with.

As I got older, I learned that the reason I didn’t have any friends and I was bullied so much was because I was quiet, and that made me creepy. I’d given up at some point, I think. I didn’t try to make friends anymore because the ones I had were mean, and the kids who bullied me just caused me physical pain.

I had a Windows 95 Packard Bell in my bedroom at this time, and although I didn’t have access to AOL on it like the family computer did, I had a small collection of floppy disks and Word Pad. I can’t remember most of what I wrote about back then, but I stored more than a few stories on those floppy disks. And when I wasn’t writing the stories down, I was living them through my toys as I acted out so many different plot lines.

As an adult now, I’ve recently finished an urban fantasy book exploring that part of my life. It brought back the fears I grew to have over the years, as I was often overlooked for writing prizes in school or was the last minute replacement for someone who couldn’t make an event, like Young Author’s club. The spelling bee. My father told me often that I needed to grow up and stop writing stories and drawing. No one else was going to care and I was going to end up penniless on a street corner with no support, eating peanut butter sandwiches to survive.

I’ve always had the fear that I’ll end up on my death bed having written a plethora of books, but never accomplished my goals. I want to be published. I want to have others read my stories and appreciate them, as all authors do. More importantly, I want to tell my own story. I want to change minds and make people think — to understand that even the weirdest kids — and adults — can be someone amazing if they’d only gotten to know them. That sometimes the quietest people have the most to say. That sometimes, our preconceived notions about things we fear, like religions and beliefs different than our own, are simply another person’s unique life experience and nothing to fear at all.

I want parents to see that kids and teenagers get hurt in ways they don’t always talk about — that not many will explore with unabashed honesty in writing. I want to help the world be a better and more understanding place with my books. And sometimes I write about things that I know will make people uncomfortable, but that’s the point. That discomfort is the start of change. And I’m not shy in the way I deliver things bluntly, because sugar-coating things isn’t going to accomplish anything worthy.

And there lies my fear. The fear that I’ll die and never accomplish anything like that. That I’ll never have touched anyone or helped anyone, or made a dent in changing the world for the better. And I’m not so full of myself — in fact my self-esteem doesn’t even exist — to think my books will be popular or change the world. On the contrary, I often worry my books really aren’t as good as I feel they are. That I’m the only one who’s ever going to get so damn excited and passionate over the content in them.

And even if that were the case, I’d keep writing anyway. I have to. It’s an addiction I can’t stop, even when I want to stop. During the three times I attempted suicide, I wrote something before or after the attempt. I wrote during the days that were my worst, and I’ve written while being heavily symptomatic with PTSD. I recently finished my current work in progress while having psychotic depression symptoms. And that’s because I just simply can’t stop no matter who cares or doesn’t care.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to breathe. I’ll get to hold at least one of my books in my hands and know that I accomplished my dream. Even though I’m disabled with severe mental illness and am often in that same quiet corner as I was when I was a kid, maybe I’ll be able to do something that can help someone or change something for the better.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Untitled Ache

I raced to the door, not having heard the quiet tapping. My headphones dangled from my desk and I was crushed beneath guilt as I helped her inside, the heavy items in her hands causing her, seemingly, great distress. I didn’t know. I rarely knew.

Why did she never tell me she needed help?

Why did she choose to put herself through misery?

I dropped a heavy twenty-four pack of soda on the floor and turned to her. “Sit down and rest. You should have told me you were on your way. I said I would help you carry all of this.” She dropped onto the sofa, short of breath, and all I could think about was her poor health. Had she eaten yet? She had a horrible habit of putting off food to do things. “Did you eat today?”

She sighed with a forlorn look. “I didn’t have a chance.”

“You can eat before you come over. You don’t have to rush over here.” I rustled through my cupboards as she shrugged and I handed her a few cookies until I figured out something more fulfilling. I pointed to the box dinner she’d brought. “Want some of that? I can make it for you.”

She nodded without making eye contact, and I knew then what to expect for the weekend. It was in her body language and the way she shifted her eyes. Her curvy form slumped over as if she were utterly exhausted, her mood clear in her posture. Her histrionic tendencies were surfacing and it brought forth the anxiety I often felt when we made plans. Which version of her would it be that weekend?

I took the meal she brought with her to prepare on the stove. I had so little, myself, in my small apartment that told of my equally small wallet, and there were just as many cobwebs in my home as in my checking account. I was down to pasta and peanut butter and bread, and embarrassment washed over me.

“Do you want to work on our book tonight?” She sounded better. 

My anxiety doubled and clenched in my chest. “Sure, I can do my best.” Her silence caused me to glance over, and she’d pulled out her large phone to scroll through Facebook. I sighed as my nerves finally calmed to be replaced with depression. It was that version of her this time.

I sat in my office chair as she ate and watched on with YouTube playing in the background. She didn’t look at me or speak, and I glanced at the awful device beside her that often stole her away from me. The Thing that was more important than anyone and anything.

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The beautiful poetry coming from the TV captivated me. A rush of passionate inspiration caused me to smile, and I turned to look for her reaction as I played the spoken-word piece for her. Of everyone I knew, she would get it. We could have such wonderful discussions about art and writing and–

Sudden laughter and a loud comedy show made me jump as she stared at the Thing. A powerful sadness gave my happiness whiplash that sent it plummeting to the pit of my stomach. Sickness. Embarrassment. My breath caught as my heart leaped across the room.

Pain. The sound of laughter through a small speaker was deafening as it drowned out the passionate inspiration still spinning beautiful words behind me. The beautiful art I’d asked to share with her. The Thing had robbed that moment, but I was beginning to realize that it wasn’t the Thing that was the problem.

Just because I let someone in, doesn’t mean I actually need them,’ she’d said. ‘I’m done with mentally ill people. I don’t want that around my kids, but I’ll keep the crazy I got,’ she’d pointed to me. ‘We write better sex than we have.’ ‘Just because you fuck ‘em doesn’t mean you have to keep ‘em.’ ‘You’re just pushing everything aside you don’t feel is important to focus on your own work.’

Her words from over the years became a skipping record and a weight fell over me — crushing me. Why did I love her so much? My heart wanted her, and I’d thought hers wanted me. I now see that the only person in her heart was herself.

The histrionic behavior. The eye rolls. The cold shoulders. The cruel words. Yet I felt the pull toward her stronger than ever. I cared too much and worried too much, and I wished she’d stay gone or stop talking to me entirely. It was easier that way. It was always easier that way.

After all, as I’d failed to learn over and over again, a narcissist was nothing more than a trap — a glimpse of a dream that shifted into a nightmare if you dared to trust the moment of peace.

©2020 Shane Blackheart