COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA: A WRITERS REGRETS

 In Biographical / Reflective, Essay, Random Musings

Art by Banksy

My love affair with writing came on the heels of a contest I won in 5th grade. My school asked everyone to draft a letter to some third world leader on behalf of Amnesty International and the winners words would help free a political prisoner held against their will in some godforsaken third world country. I knew the task was important work, but at 10 years old, I could not quite comprehend the magnitude of what was posed; nonetheless, I knew that what I said needed to come from the heart so I poured out my soul onto paper.

Out of all the contestants the powers that be chose my letter. I won and I just knew that once that warlord who was interning the aid worker and confining him/her to a darkened chamber read my heartfelt plea, the shackles would come off and the prisoner would be free to go home.

My perception of human kindness and my impact on the world was a tad bit skewed at age 10.

The following year I submitted an article to a newspaper recounting my experience during the celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty. Having just moved to California from Brooklyn Heights, I figured readers would be riveted. The editors chose to run it, making me a published author! I was playing with the big boys now. Not only was I a humanitarian hero, but I was also a published one! Yes, it was an elementary school newspaper, yes, the circulation was limited to grades k through 6, but I was in print and that was all that mattered. So I did what every almost-famous writer does after they discover they actually aren’t half bad…I stopped writing.

It saddens me that it took more than a decade to give it the old college try…again. Did I really think that what I had achieved was my apex, the dénouement of my writing career? I must have, because I promptly put the pen down and gave up, choosing instead to pursue dreams that led me down darker paths (well not that dark, but certainly not conducive to fulfilling a fruitful adult existence where I get to live the dream.) I chose to chase dragons that only steered me head-first into countless dead-end jobs and now I am back to square one, busting my backside to duplicate the rush I got from being recognized for doing something I love.

I know I am running the risk of sounding trite and slightly Hallmarky, but if you have that undeniable creative itch, don’t stop because you are afraid that someone else is going to be better, because someone will be. If I could do it over again… lets just say I would not be blogging about a bunch of things I should have done. I would have done them and instead of droning on about dark paths and grade school accomplishments, I would be lecturing at some university to a bunch of hopeful creative writing up-and-comers.

Sara O'Connor
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