I was staring at empty space. I tried to look for the fixed contours on the paper and the silhouette of the pen I was holding. I tried but to no avail. My mind was swimming in an endless array of uneasiness. I was not certain whether I was dreaming or already awake. This was hard, I told myself. I felt a drop of sweat trickling down my cheek. Thomas Edison once said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. If he was right then I was on the right track. But doubt was slowly lurking and creeping around me. Was it really this hard to be inspired to write? I just comforted myself by constantly saying what Jean Anouilh once said, that inspiration was a farce that poets had invented to give themselves importance.
When I was starting to become a writer, I was not even aware that I was trying to be one. Grade school for me was seventy percent playing and thirty percent dreaming. And my dreams during that time were all about winning an Academy Award or being named as one of the sexiest people in the world. Becoming the next president was also in my mind. But the thought of being a writer was like imagining myself eating salad with an alien in a crater of a moon in one of the planets in the Andromeda galaxy; it never crossed my mind.
In a nutshell, when I tried to analyze how I was as a writer in grade school, all I could say was that I was a courageously idiotic writer. An idiot, but brave nonetheless. This was largely due to the fact that everything I had written at that time was not even close to being brilliant or great. All the words I wrote were simply inspired by having the guts to just do it. If there was a paper too difficult to do and a word too hard to define, all I did was to write and write because I believed that everything would be just fine.
I was stupid enough to go forth while all hell broke loose and still smiled at the end of the day. I was guided by my own foolish belief I was brave simply because I would not back away. This was writing for me in grade school. Writing for me back then was not about being witty or being brilliant. Writing was all about just stroking my pen without regret and without regard for the outcome. However, in a sense, everyone who attempted to write had some ounce of courage. I felt that I was a better writer than the other students not because I wrote well but rather, I wrote braver. And I was braver longer than most. As Ronald Reagan once mentioned, heroes were not braver than anyone else. They were just braver five minutes longer.
As I made the transition from grade school to high school, I started to become idealistic. I began having these grand notions of changing the world and eradicating poverty. I was dreaming of winning the Nobel Peace Prize or be named the next Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. This time, I was absolutely clear in becoming a writer. Writing for me during high school was all about greatness. I felt the need to write to impress. I wanted to be witty and brilliant. I wanted everybody to be mesmerized in reading every single word I wrote. When I tried to look back during those days, even when I wrote poorly, I blindly presented my written work of art full of hubris and unafraid. I often compared writing to boxing.
As Muhammad Ali would say, to be a great champion, a person had to believe that he was the best. If he was not, he should pretend that he was. This was me in high school. I was the writer who was so full of himself. If a teacher or a classmate did not like what I wrote, I simply told myself that these people did not understand the high level of writing I was doing. I understood myself to be a brilliant and confident writer. In reality, compared to who I was as a writer in grade school, only one thing had changed. If I was a brave and idiotic back then, I was not confident but just cocky in high school. And to my realization, I was still stupid for thinking of how great I was.
When I stepped into college, a renewed vigour was awakened within me. Maybe I got too tired of being cocky and stupid that I started seeing a new side of me I never saw I had. This time I believed I had transcended from being the good and the better man to the being best man. I was no longer the idiot and stupid writer. I was filled with excitement. I was now the fool. Somehow, the words and lines I were using suddenly all sounded a bit poetic and romantic. I often pondered if I was to be the next William Shakespeare.
This time, I was inspired by the others that had gone before me. I wanted to sway the hearts and minds of people with my writing. I wanted to invoke their deepest darkest secrets through my words. I wanted to encapsulate each soul with a stroke of my pen. I longed to see their tears and hear their laughs by my artistry in poetry. I would be that whom which T. S. Eliot described as the genuine poet who could communicate his words before it was understood. And to my shock, I did see their tears and heard their laughs because of what I had written. I saw my professors crying in pain because they could not even bear one more word of my work. I heard laughs not because I was funny, but because my work was hilarious. Despite this, I still continued and persevered. As one of my favourite authors, Richard Bach, would say, a professional writer was an amateur who did not quit.
Everything was a bit different after that. Somehow, until to this very day, I would still be idiotic, stupid and foolish. But this time around, I was a wise fool at the least. I had been quoting Edison, Anouilh, Ali, Reagan and Eliot just to name a few thinking that by using their words, I would be a good writer; I would sound better. But I soon realized that writing was about finding my voice.
I needed to find my own words. Writing was about knowing and understanding who I was. Thus, I resolved to search for the right words, the right imagery, the right tone and the right sound. However, I always asked myself if there were indeed such things. Then, it hit me. I was so concerned with the way I was writing that I forgot to find my purpose for it. Why did I want to become a writer? The answer was simple. It was because in writing, I offered who I was and not what I had. That sounded right, I told myself. It sounded just about right.