The first poem I ever wrote and published, I wrote for my middle school’s end of year newspaper. It wasn’t the first time I had written something though. That honor belonged to a short story I had written with my best friend at the time, about a herd of Diplodocuses journeying to find their new home. I wrote the story on notebook paper and he illustrated every page. It was our pride and joy. Around ten fully illustrated and colored pages, with a heart-felt story about family and survival.
I had also written a pseudo-television series script that I would pass around to my friends, who would bombard me with questions regarding every dramatic cliffhanger.
Writing then vanished, after my family and I moved from Lebanon in 2000, until a fateful fall day in 2002. My now depressed and angsty teenage self, trying to navigate the merciless stream of bullies in high school, believed that I was the problem. Reaching a breaking point, I attempted suicide, failed - thankfully - and wrote my second poem entitled “Man”. That poem would go on to be published in a poetry collection book and win the Editor’s Choice Award that year.
That’s when I realized that writing was not just a hobby, but my saving grace, my God-given gift, and my way of making a difference in the world.
Writing would occur silently now, as I would continue to write poems, publish three more with the same publisher who’d published the first poem, and win two more Editor’s Choice Awards.
A few short stories (unpublished) written for a high school creative writing class, a few attempts at writing a supernatural romance novel, but nothing that truly pushed me forward — something was now missing and at the time, I didn’t know what it was.
I’d go on to writing an award winning short film entitled One Last Stand, a screenplay I’m still proud of to this day, and ultimately get my Master’s in Creative Writing for Media from Full Sail University.
This is key.
During my master’s program, we had deliverables every week. We had to workshop each other’s writing every week. There was a machine that was unstoppable and a creative output that seemed eternal. So, what was it that brought that stream of imagination and that drive? Where did it all come from?
To answer the latter question first, it had all came from me, I was the source of all of it — I just forgot that I was. The answer to the former question is simple: community.
You see, I’d written that first short story with a friend. There was collaboration, a unified belief in a project, a merger of creative talents producing and birthing a story. There was mutual love of something - brainstorming, challenging questions and debate. My friend would correct the way I’d described a particular dinosaur or how that dinosaur would never eat that or do that or move that way — he was obsessed and quite literally an encyclopedia.
When I wrote that pseudo-television series, I had no technical idea of what I was doing, heck seeing it now the formatting was all wrong, but the story was there. The characters were there. The arcs were there. The cliffhangers were there. That’s all because the audience was there. My friends were flipping out over the plot-twists, the drama, the suspense. There was, yet again, a community that was participating in the creation of this story.
The last time I ever wrote anything was my second award winning short film, which I co-wrote with my sister in 2016. I did the majority of the work, while her input truly helped with the female eye and perspective regarding the film’s main conflict. Since then, nothing seemed to stick. Not really.
I published my own poetry chapbook, in which I only wrote a few brand new poems. The rest were all revamps and re-edits of my older poems.
I had a wonderful experience — my first time — collaborating with a dear friend on a web series concept I’d come up with. This was a taste of what I, now know, I always wanted.
You see, I love serialized content, and what I love most about it is the fact that it has a Writer’s Room. A room filled with writers who all collaborate and work within the same world and weave out narratives for multi-season shows. I wanted that. I wanted to have that feeling that I had in the past. I wanted to be able to debate, figure out solutions for plot holes, and celebrate achievements. I wanted a community…
Covid-19 taught us many things, but what I feel like it taught us most, is that we need community. We are not made to live secluded from one another, and we needed each other. This is especially true for artists.
Which brings me to today.
After spending what felt like an eternity without my craft, feeling my writing muscles atrophying, and my creative juices drying out, I had a breakdown which lead me to a breakthrough — I needed a community and if I couldn’t find one, I was going to build my own.
I reactivated my social media accounts (I’d been on an extended digital detox), I even opened a Twitter account and started following and interacting with other fellow writers of all shapes and sizes and genres. After a couple of days, I ran into a self-published fantasy author. This author is now the first member of The Rookery, my writer’s group.
On Monday August 16th 2021, we had our first workshop meeting. This is after two weeks of us discussing our work, sharing ideas, lessons, and interactions. The workshop was everything that I could have hoped for, and it cemented the fact that I truly believe all artists need a community.
The Rookery is a place where Nick and I can feel safe to express concerns, share achievements, hold each other accountable, push and motivate one another during slumps, and also teach each other and help each other grow as writers. From one meeting alone, my current work in progress has a new found sense of direction and I have fallen back in love and reignited my excitement for the project. I remembered why I wanted to write this book series to begin with. On the other hand, Nick has a new found love of writing groups seeing as to how he was extremely skeptical of them. I’ve given him my feedback on his work and he’s taught me some great valuable lessons as well.
The best part? This is only the beginning.
We’re a communal species, and artists need people for inspiration, motivation, support, and celebration.
Community is beyond important in today’s ever so divided world. So, wherever you are in the world, know that you can build your own community, choose your family, and unite to create a better world, with more hope-filled art.