Guest Post: Writer Interrupted

Hey guys, John here. This is the first guest post of 2015 written by the always great John Callaghan. This was not a topic I chose or approved. I let him decide what to write and that’s what he did. The message he delivers in just a few hundred words should be known by every writer at all times. Now let’s welcome him with a nice round of applause. It’s all yours, Mr. Callaghan.


Writer Interrupted

From the time I was a child, I wanted to write. Not necessarily as a profession but merely as a hobby. Putting my thoughts on paper and creating something from nothing was thrilling. I wrote horror stories in which someone always ended up with a bloody stump. I wrote essays of sorts. And I wrote poetry.

In grade eight I entered a poem in a contest held every year by the Legion, a non-profit organization that provides support for military veterans in Canada. I worked hard on that poem. I wrote of loss and fear and memory—not a great poem but good for someone my age. And I won my region. I was going to get the opportunity to go to the Legion in Pembroke and read my poem for the veterans. It was my first tangible accomplishment as a writer and I was elated.

The day after I learned I had won, I went to school and in breathless excitement told some of my friends my good news.

“Hey guys, I won the Legion poetry contest,” I said, and then waited for a “way to go” or “that’s great” or even a “good for you.”

But instead what I got was: “Writing is for faggots. It’s gay.”

The boy who said this was a red-headed monster and he said it with such surety, such conviction (and he was the leader of our group), that I believed him. My world imploded, and rather than be upset about what he said, I was angry at myself, ashamed, for not knowing what everyone else so obviously knew: Writing was for the “Other,” misfits, outsiders. And I wanted to fit in—I was desperate to fit in.

I put my pen down that day and didn’t pick it up again for many, many years.

If I could go back in time and talk to that version of myself, I’d tell that boy, “You have to keep writing. No matter what. That red-headed monster is doomed to a life of misery. The world is so big. And he is so small, just a punchline in the joke of life.” I’d tell my younger self to laugh about it, or punch Monsterboy in the face, or just stare at him until he becomes uncomfortable and then stare a little more.

This experience wasn’t the only reason I stopped writing, but it was a contributing factor. I am careful, however, not to dwell on regret and live in that dangerous state of being where I think about wasted opportunity, wasted time. That is a dead-end road. But I do wonder from time to time what could have been if I had not been a writer interrupted.

John Callaghan

Get Off My Lawn

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30 thoughts on “Guest Post: Writer Interrupted

  1. Reblogged this on Get Off My Lawn and commented:
    Hey guys I’ve written a guest post over at Write me a book, John. So head on over and check it out.

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  2. It’s amazing how one person’s words can affect us so deeply, even make us give up something we love (as in your example). Other times, people can tell us the same thing over and over, and we don’t pay it any heed. I suppose it comes down to our confidence level in whatever it is we’re pursuing. What a butt-head that kid was. Sounds like the red-headed bully in my second book.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. It took me four of the six years of writing to call myself a writer. Nursing is what pays the bills. And I’ve been afraid to say it out loud much for fear of that “Where’s your novel?” question. Everyone seems to want something measurable. They need to look closer. I am happier every day.

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  4. Harsh! Kind of makes me glad I was Queen of the Outcasts as a kid – couldn’t blend in if I tried. I learned young to be proud of being different. Then again, I also learned young that people suck. Kind of a double-edged sword, really. 🙂

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    • Sadly, I lived in a rural area at the time and the school was small. It was just little old me on the outside. I am grateful that this didn’t last long.
      I think kids of that age have a capacity for cruelty that is unmatched.
      Thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. My town is small, but suburban. In NJ, all the small towns are on top of all the other small towns. It’s not quite the same as being in a rural area. When we moved at the end of first grade, and it was a real shock for me. I discovered I was shy. I never knew it when I was younger because I knew everyone, and had since we were all born. Suddenly I was a stranger in a strange land, getting picked on because I didn’t have the faintest idea how to interact with all these weird people I’d never seen before and wasn’t sure I wanted to get to know, because that’s JUST the age when kids start getting cruel, so I think I had this mentality of ‘what’s with these people? They’re jerks. The kids at my old school weren’t like this.’ And, I witnessed some harsh bullying really early after the move, before I really got to know anyone’s name, so I think that settled with me early. ‘I don’t want to be like these jerks who push people into garbage cans. I don’t care what people who behave like this think.’ The things that grab onto us when we’re young and impressionable tend to stick with us and really shape who we become, I guess.

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      • Yes they really do. It is a testement to the power these kinds of events have in that now, and pretty much my whole teenage and adult life, I would not have given a second thought to what this little trwerp said. Bullies can smell fear and weakness and at that time, in that place, I was both.

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      • Strength through adversity, though. It’s a lot harder for bullies to grow, learn, and evolve than it is for the bullied. It’s a weird, backhanded sort of gift like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This kid ended up a really horrible alcoholic. He was eventually shot in the leg in his own home over a drug deal gone bad. And, I really kind of felt bad for him. The man was train wreck.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ouch, yeah. Proof of the point, though. It’s the people who belittle others who have the biggest problems.

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  5. Great example of how the narrow-minded nature of bigots and bullies can affect us all. I hope you never stop writing.

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  6. And I don’t imagine I need to tell you if you’d had different kinds of parents, you wouldn’t have been as vulnerable to the bully, and/or they would have made sure you kept writing. I totally get how these snapshot, turning point memories can dig in and stay for the duration. Man, take a wrong turn early and you can really wander far afield for years, yes?

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  7. What a shame that happened to you. But I like your outlook now– keep moving forward and don’t dwell on the past. BTW, the red-head was probably jealous.

    Liked by 1 person

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