A History of Me – Writing in the Darkness Without the Secret Handshake…

My first forays into writing were stories that always seemed to end with a fridge door opening and a head being chilled on a silver platter inside said fridge. I guess when I was seven or eight, I saw myself as a sort of horror writer. After all, who scared us shitless more than Stephen King? Although, for the life of me I can’t recall if I even read his works back then. Could I have simply heard of King and aspired to write like what I imagined he wrote like? Who knows. I just knew a good severed head was best served up, well, cold.


I still remember my first ‘novel’ too. Marjoram. Great title, eh. Yep. Marjoram was a honkin’ huge used-to-be garage band. The main characters were embarrassingly fashioned after Bruno & Boots, the main characters of Gordon Korman’s Macdonald Hall series. Korman had just made an appearance in my Grade 7 or 8 classroom. This was in the late 70s. He helped reignite the love of words that Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl had instilled in me in my earlier life. And, I suppose, Stephen King (in spirit, if not in any other way). Marjoram was painstakingly written in pen. A whole spiral notebook. I actually received an A+ for the story, so some well-meaning if exasperated teacher took pity on my Korman-bedazzled eyes and gave me the mark for effort.


Fast forward through all the trauma, joy, sorrow, bad decisions, good decisions, craziness, zaniness, depression, elation and all the other ion and ness words…somewhere along the way, I well and truly lost my way. I didn’t find my way back to writing until 2002. I’ve been writing ever since. Non-stop. Once you teach the parrot to talk, you cannot teach him to shut up. You merely await his death.


With all that writing, I still haven’t really learned the handshake. I don’t know…maybe it’s the trauma and bad life choices…the lack of strength in my early years that allowed me to fail so totally as a normalian…but something stands in my way. Is it that I didn’t get a card-carrying membership into the League of Writers through some inexplicably random series of college or university courses. Is it that I am blinded by my own stubbornness to accept failure as a default that I don’t see that I’m actually doing fairly well? I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint what feels ‘wrong’ about this. I write every day. I no longer put pen to paper, but I definitely churn words out through my fingers onto the computer screen. Christ, I’m doing it right now. I just…I guess I still don’t know why I’m doing it. I feel as though I’m constantly pushing my books on unsuspecting readers…but as I reach out to them in one way, I pull away from them in another. I hope they won’t read my words. I hope they will read my words.


I’m nearing the end of my umpteenth novel. I use the term umpteenth because I’m too lazy to actually do the counting on my fingers. I haven’t a clue how many I’ve written. You see, I’m fairly disconnected. I’m sometimes so numb, I have a hard time remembering the character names on the novel I’m actually working on. Have you ever had to scroll back to find your main character’s name? I can’t have an intelligent conversation with a reader. They asked me where I came up with the idea for, say, John Doe, and I can’t for the life of me remember what novel John Doe was a character in. I’m hopeless.


Yet, I continue. There is something in the actually laying down of words that seems to get me through. I’ll take it. You know…I’ll own it. It’s better than not writing. It’s the act of writing I need…not the outcome. The outcome is for readers—potential, constant and imagined.


It just gets to be a lot to handle sometimes. This pre-winter time seems to be the most difficult for me. But you know what…I’m gonna just keep writing. Ever forward… then you don’t have to look back at what you’ve written, right. It’s like I’m dropping all these crumbs along the forest path so I won’t get lost in the darkness. Only thing is… some bastard keeps pickin’ up the crumbs. I’m writing…but it’s too dark in here to see the words…


By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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