Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Fictional Past

By Sarah Herlong

When I was young and sensitive about critiques, I asked my mother to read my story. I wanted to know if the actions of my characters were realistic. She pointed out to me that putting gas cans full of gasoline in the trunk of a car was not a safe thing to do. I was crushed. The gas in the trunk was very important to my story…it was crucial!

I wanted to write stories that didn’t sound like a kid wrote them. Unfortunately I was maybe 10 years old. I decided to stop writing. I wanted to wait until I was older and knew more about the world.

I then turned my attention to art deciding to merely illustrate my friend’s book instead. We were 13. I pursued art through college. I wanted to take a creative writing course, but bottom line I was too chicken to take it. I wondered if I had anything to say that wouldn’t scream that I was only 20 years old. 

It was only after college that I started to write. A lot of writing was skewed and imprinted with depression. It wasn’t completely worthless, but was damn near close. I still have those writings to remind me of a place I don’t want to go back to.

Finally in my thirties I took a writing class. It was a fiction class and it was all about getting words on the page through prompts. We wrote during the class and at home. It blew my mind. I was in the midst of a mania induced creative period. I dreamed what every writer dreams, to quit my job in order to write. But that job inspired my writing.

Then I got laid off from that tyrannical job, worked for a funeral home and started writing again. This was the ultimate job to inspire writing. I did a comedy routine about it. Wrote stories about it. And put together and delivered a career-day presentation on the funeral business—for middle schoolers.

Then the depression returned and the writing stopped. It wasn’t until I met a little cat named Sparky that my inspiration returned. Three Sparky stories in and I think I’m safely entrenched in writing for the long haul. The irony is now I want to write children’s stories that have a realistic kid’s voice, instead of writing for my age.


Leigh Stevenson said...


I love reading about the journey of writers. It was a huge step for me even to call myself a "writer". I suspect, unless someone is ten years old and doesn't know better, all writers question themselves at some point. I love that you talk about it so honestly. I'm glad you came back to writing. I don't know about your art, but your stand-up routine rocks, too!

Jodie Cain Smith said...

Thank you, Sarah, for another great post. My writing journey was tied closely to my emotional state. I started writing as a reaction to being scared out of my mind for Jay, who was deployed to Iraq at the very beginning of the Iraq war. After a few years of writing under the umbrella of being an Army Wife, I became uninspired, too bitter and angry to write another word. But, thankfully, years later, I discovered fiction as a means to escape and heal. Your posts always make me think!