Because of You – Celebrating 1 Year of my Greatest Accomplishment

As I write this, it is March 2, 2016. As I write this, I am thinking of all the homework I have to do still and how stressed I am to have three finals in one day this quarter. As I write this, I am trying not to think about the way this sickness I have acquired is making my whole body ache and turning my nose into Niagara Falls. And as I write this, I am incredibly stoked to say that I get to go to Spring Training in just a few weeks!!

But something else is on my mind today, and yes, it is because of one of those Facebook “See Your Memories” things. For once, I was so happy to see a memory.

On this day one year ago, I finished the first draft of my novel.

I know, it is nuts. It is nuts that I wrote a novel and had the patience to draft it three more times. It is nuts that it is currently in the hands of a literary agent. It is also nuts that it has taken me this long to get this far, but I am still deciding on whether or not it is a good thing or a bad thing.

Basically, life is crazy. I cannot believe that it has already been a year since I finished writing a freaking novel. Time has flown by so fast, and I kind of thought I would be further along than this. I would love to get it published before I turn 21, but that is happening in five months (!!!), and I don’t think it will happen. This is a long process, I know.

Sometimes, I think I am not good enough to be a great writer–or even a good one. There is so much talent out there, and I feel like my work is subpar. I feel like my novel will fizzle out and I will not be able to come back from that and create something new and worthy. Novels are hard. As I have gone through draft after draft, I wonder if anyone will even like this story. I wonder if it makes sense. I have put my heart and soul into this story, and I am afraid that it will get lost in the world of Chick Lit and YA fiction. I am afraid that it won’t be published at all.

A lot of people, especially at a polytechnic school like mine, think english is easy. They don’t give it any credit. It is pointless in the world they live in. Even adults give me condescending looks and say “At Cal Poly?” when I tell them my major. A lot of people don’t think I belong at this school. And while I could never do what they do, they can never do what I do either. It is a two-way street, bud.

And then they come to me with there puppy-dog eyes and ask me if I can edit their papers for them.

That is when I remind myself that the world needs minds like mine. Not everyone can work so logically all the time. Sometimes we need to take a break from the real world and immerse ourselves into someone else’s. This is how I feel about writing.

I want to tell you about how I feel in love with writing because it forever changed my life.

I grew up wanting to be in the spotlight; actress and singer were my chosen professions. I had always dabbled in writing, but I never took it very seriously, which is why all my novel ideas and beginnings of drafts ended up on the drawing room floor.

In the eighth grade, my teacher (Ms. Lauren Pinto, whom I love. A fab woman, if you ask me.) gave us a creative writing assignment. I wrote a few pages of a spooky Halloween story that ended on a To Be Continued… cliffhanger. I was going to end it there–let the reader’s mind wander where it may. Until I came up with more to the story.

It became a four-part saga of this wild almost Pretty Little Liars-esque adventure the protagonist, Allie, went on with her four best friends, Dani, Candace, and Ava, who at the time, were my real-life squad. It may have only been about ten pages total, but to me, it was everything. It was the first seed I planted in my own Garden of Eden.

I loved it so much that I had to share it with everyone I knew, specifically, my Uncle Steve, who was a professor and co-founder of Cal State Channel Islands. If anyone should read it, it was him. So I emailed him the document and waited. It was not until the next time I saw him that I heard anything about my story.

My uncle had taken it upon himself to print it all out and write out feedback for me. There was so much red on the pages that I almost did not want to read what he said. I wondered how he could be so mean to his favorite niece! Why wasn’t he praising me for a job well done? I only half listened as he told me he like the story but had a few points of criticism. All I thought was that I was no good. There was no point in me continuing to write, if this was what it was going to be like. Clearly, I was not good enough. I only skimmed through his marks before putting the pages away in my desk. I did not look at them after that.

During my freshman year of high school, I decided (actually, my mother made me) to clean out my desk and make room for all the high school stuff I would acquire throughout the next few years. In my cleaning, I came across my old Halloween story again. I felt a twinge of anger, but I sat there on my bedroom floor and started looking through it–partly because I wanted to take a break, partly because a piece of me knew my uncle might be right.

I read through his comments with an open mind and realized that he was totally right about a lot of things I had written. His feedback would have made it better, I just had not wanted to see it at first. I took this notion and ran away with it. It was time for another draft of the story.

It was not long before I realized I wasn’t just running with it, I was going for the marathon. I took his feedback and added in my own, doubling the length of the story. To be honest, I think I liked this part more than writing the first draft. It was so much fun to see how I had grown as a writer and as a person. I knew Uncle Steve was only trying to help me, and I should have never taken his advice in a negative way. I could not wait to show him everything my story had turned into.

In September of my sophomore year, Uncle Steve lost his battle with cancer, and he never got to read the final draft of Fright Night. I had been working so hard on it that it almost felt pointless to continue if he would never get to see it. I remember reading his feedback and comparing it to the new and improved story. I wanted to put it all away again and not look back. It didn’t feel right. But I read over the original one more time and touched where his pen met the page, I knew I had to finish it for him.

I will always dedicate that story to him, and he will always be the reason I fell in love with writing again. Later in my sophomore year, after a failed half-draft of Fright Night, Volume II, I began my novel. This one, I would commit to. It may have taken me almost four years to finish, thanks to writer’s block, loss of motivation, SATs, school work, AP tests, college applications, etc, but I did it. And one year later, I could not be more grateful.

Every time I feel stuck or that my writing is not good enough, I close my eyes and I think back to that very first draft. The images of his comments are ingrained into my brain. Seeing his handwriting reminds me why I did this. Why I love this.

Of course, I am sad that he will never get to read my first novel. I am disappointed that he will never get to see my name in print. I tear up a little when I think about that first story. But I just take a deep breath and I remember the rush of the first draft and how falling in love with an idea feels like I am five years old on Christmas Day. Uncle Steve did that for me. He helped me discover my love of writing, and I am forever thankful for that. I know how proud he is of me.

I miss him every day, but that gives me strength to keep writing, to keep following my dreams. Whenever I forget why I picked the world’s most hated my school’s most hated a major/career with such a dicey success rate, I just remember that I can do anything. I can be anything. And one day when I am accepting my Pulitzer Prize, Steve Lefevre will be at the top–and quite possibly the most important–on my list of Thank Yous.

xx Ash

PS “My Story” got an upgrade! Check it out 🙂

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