There was a game my cousin and I used to play when we were young. During a thunderstorm, we would pull our blankets from our beds and go sit in the living room. We would wait there, our blankets draped over our shoulders like capes, our fingers gripping the edges, waiting in false fear. We knew it would come--all we had to do was wait.
A flash of light would break through the windows. We’d cry out a screaming laugh and dive under the blankets. We had to be covered by darkness before the crashing BOOM of thunder would sound. When all grew quiet again, we would lift up the edges of our blankets and peer into the darkness of the still room around us. We would poke our heads out little by little, waiting for another blinding light to throw us back in. We would do this over and over again--waiting for light, hiding from sound.
Now, to be honest, I had no idea where telling this story would take me. The memory was simply on my mind as I sat here at my computer, wondering what in the world I would blog after nearly two years of silence. After moving back to Utah to attend graduate school. After so much has changed and so much has happened. I suppose that’s writing though--figuring out my thoughts as I go. Connecting the dots through words.
Creativity, for me, is similar to that memory. I keep waiting for it to strike, to light up the dark room that surrounds me. I want it to show me something I’ve never seen before: a chair that suddenly looks different under the light of electricity; the keys of the piano; the colors of a painting on the wall.
So, I wait. I linger. I crouch halfway beneath a blanket, waiting for creativity to strike me. Yet, just as it comes, I cower. I feel the thunderous noise of failure coming for me, and I dive beneath the blanket. I know that the light will bring the noise, so I run away from it. I never start. I never see the illuminated world because I’m too afraid of what could come next.
Too often, I'm so afraid of this failure. So afraid that if I start, I'll never finish. Or worse, that I'll finish and it won't be good enough. That it'll show that I'm not good enough. They're fears that so many artists have. Fears that create writer's block and a hesitancy to create at all.
But my fears are nonsense. Not because I've already been published. Not because I've won awards. They're nonsense because I've come to know a hard truth over these past few years. That I am a writer simply because it's what I am. It's what I've always been. I will succeed because I will never stop writing. It's what I have to do. I cannot live without it.
Still, writing is not easy. It's never easy. Creating any kind of art is difficult. It's so difficult that we pull out our hair, scream into the silence, throw things across the room, rip up our work, stomp so hard we hope to break through the ground and fall away into our despair.
But it's also worth every moment of frustration and pain. I don't think I have to tell this to any of you. Because, otherwise, why else would art exist? If it wasn't worth it, why would we do it? Why would we endure this pain? Why would we live through hardship and all those telling us we're not good enough? We do it because we have to. We do it because creativity is what brings us life. It's a part of what makes our tiny amount of time in the universe worth living. Because, I think, deep inside every artist, there's a piece that knows there's nothing else they want more than to create.
This is why I came back to Utah. I'm done hiding from the thunder. I'm finished with the self-doubt, with the fear of failure. Not that it won't crop up anymore--I know it will. But I will transcend it like I've done before. We can't let anyone tell us we can't make it--that we're not good enough.
Because we are.
We can all see the light. Stand straight. Hear the crash of creativity sweep through us. Feel the thunder reverberate through our bones. Then, sit down and create something beautiful.
It's inside all of us, waiting to be born.
So, yesterday, Facebook showed me that two years ago I started my first semester at USU. Thinking back on it, I had no idea just how much my life would change in that time—how much different I would be now. I have grown more in these past two years than I feel I did over the 23 before. In those years, I really became a writer. I became more open-minded and more sure of myself. I’ve met incredible people, made lifelong friends, and have found mentors who have helped me beyond anything I could describe. Today, I just want to talk about these two years.
In those years, I finished a 170,000-word novel (120,000 words now because of editing), and I sent out my first query letter yesterday. I did something I once deemed impossible for myself. I proved to myself that I could make it to the finish line, that I could really do this. I have followed my dream, and it is becoming a reality day by day.
In those years, I married the most amazing man. I met him at one of the lowest points of my adult life. I had come to a moment where I started believing that love may not be in my future—maybe it was a thing some people never find. I had started to accept that it may just be my lot in life as a gay man. A life of loneliness and solitude. And then I met Jed, and he pulled me from an exceedingly destructive path.
Jed showed me that I could be loved for everything I am, crazy quirks and all. He supported my writing career more than I could have ever hoped for, and he still pushes me to be the best person I can be. He is my everything, and last year I got to marry him.
In those years, I became a published writer. I earned first place in poetry for the USU Creative Writing Contest, and I won a $3,000 scholarship for my writing. I explored genres that I never wanted to explore and found that I really loved them. Nonfiction became something that helped me become the person I needed to be. Poetry allowed me to share feelings in a way that saved me. I became a true and talented writer.
In those years, I’ve overcome my fear of abandonment [ mostly ;) ]. I’ve found people that will forever be a part of me, no matter how far life takes us. Maybe that sounds cliché or mushy, but it’s something that I’ve always feared—being left behind. Maybe it’s a youngest child thing. Maybe it’s my mental health problems. Maybe it’s a mixture of a lot of things, but from my high school years, I’ve been so afraid of being alone. I don’t fear that anymore. I have my husband. I have my family. I have friends that I know will always be close. I can go anywhere in life, and I’ll still have loved ones around me.
In those years, I’ve lost and found spirituality. The policy change within the LDS Church on November 13, 2015 broke me for many reasons, but it helped me make my decision to fully break free from it (though it still took six months to get there). It was hard, nearly impossible, for me to disconnect God from the Church, but I eventually found a way. I found a way to still love the LDS Church even through the pain they’d inflicted upon me. I found a way to craft understanding within myself. I found God in myself and have never been more at peace.
In those years, I’ve felt incredible loss. My dog passed away when he was hit by a car, and my amazing grandmother passed from cancer. The pain from both of those moments felt like something I could never recover from, but I eventually found peace both times. That’s not to say that it still doesn’t hurt. I still cry about both from time to time, but slowly the memories are turning from painful aches to happy times filled with love. I now understand that it’s the happy memories that last. Not the fights, the anger, the annoyances that ever occurred within a lifetime. It’s the moments of absolute inspiration, love, and beauty that remain.
In those years, I’ve found friends and mentors that have changed my life forever. I’ve had professors that helped me overcome my fears of sharing my writing. I’ve had peers show me that my writing is something to be proud of. I’ve had so many people enter my life, I don’t know where to begin with thanking them all. I suppose the only way to do so is be there for them in the same caring way.
In those years, I’ve had to accept that brevity is the key to writing, so I think I’ll start wrapping this up. Maybe this post was more for myself than anyone else; I’m not sure, but it easily could have been. I think it’s nice every once in a while to look back on the years and realize how incredible life can be and how much can change in that time—for good and hurt. To see those changes now makes me so happy that I have this amazing life to call my own. I wouldn’t trade it for any other in the world.
During my freshman year of college at Southern Utah University back in 2010, an academic advisor gave me multiple personality tests. These tests were supposed to help guide me toward a profession I’d enjoy. At that point in time, I had already changed my major five times (English-Theatre-Business-English-Psychology-English). In hindsight, I really should have known that I’d one day land in English. Denial really is a funny thing.
In any case, up until that time, I had always felt like there was nothing I was truly good at. I was good at singing, but I knew people who were better. I was good at writing, but the same deal. I felt like there was nothing I was truly great at. Knowing this about me, my advisor gave me a test he called The Five Strengths Assessment. It was a 200-question test that was supposed to help me understand my five greatest inner strengths. After about an hour of answering questions, I had my results:
I could go on for pages on each one of those strengths, but one has stood out most for me ever since. The words on the printout I received for Connectedness were…
...You gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it...Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures...
It blew me away. I had always felt this throughout my life--this idea that all people are connected to each other. That isolation was never supposed to be a part of the human experience. And then there were those words, printed out on paper, that told me this belief was my greatest strength in the world. That I could be a “bridge builder for people.” It wouldn’t be long before I realized writing was a way to do this and the need to write hit me with the speed and power of a bullet train.
I rode that train for the next few years, not knowing exactly where my next stop might be. I moved around Utah for a while and even spent some time in Germany and Switzerland (a whole different story for a different day). It wasn’t until I landed in Logan, Utah that I found my feet in the writing world.
Now this story may not seem like it has a designated point or purpose--after all, I am known for my tangents and distractibility--but there is a reason why I’m talking about all this on my first post. That reason is Connectedness.
I write to connect. I write to understand and to create understanding. I write because it’s the best way I know how to communicate with others. I live in a world of words that fill my head and spill from my fingers onto pages that I hope someday will be seen by others. It can be terrifying at times. Terrifying in the way that makes me want to curl into a ball under my desk and never leave again. Terrifying in the way it makes me pause over the “post” or “submit” button every time I send something out. As I hover over those laptop keys, I can’t help but wonder what it’s all for--why I put myself through this--why I didn’t keep majoring in Business.
And then I remember that test.
Connections are what matter most to me. Connections with my family. Connections with my friends. Connections with strangers and people I meet on the street. Writing is my way of communicating best with all of them. And that thought is enough to help me push that button, send that essay, finish that book. It’s enough to make every rejection worthwhile and every success bliss. Enough to get me back on that train, taking me nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
It’s enough to keep me typing.
And that’s really all I need.