The other night, while scrolling through social media feeds, I had a thought enter my mind. It's a thought that has soaked through into a deep recess of my subconscious because it is one tinged with melancholic longing. "What ever happened to my old muses?"
A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
To me, these were people who had an instrumental influence on my life (read: made me keep going when I wanted to give up on my passions). And yet, now, they are as much a stranger to me as the day before I met them. The muses themselves stretch as far back as a decade before I had even uploaded a single word to any website anywhere, before I had a pen name, and before I even had the first word or title for a novel.
For the sake of the story, I will use a stand-in name for each of the three muses that I want to celebrate here. I want to thank them, first and foremost, for all that they did, despite maybe never knowing just what they did at all. Without each of their inputs, the foundation would never have been cemented, and the whole house of cards could have come collapsing down around me.
The year is 2012. I am not even yet 17 years old, just a fragile teen trying to figure out his place in the world. The world is big, scary, and I am just a speck of dust. The location is my bedroom. In my hand, an old silver-backed iPod touch struggling to maintain a wi-fi connection. On this glowing screen was Kik messenger, and in this messenger was you. Hazel, a fake name here, but you were there. One of my first online friends that I had ever made and one of the truest ones I think I could have made, especially at the time.
Her and I met on Twitter, of course, and chatted on Kik a lot. We shared a good bond and shared our hopes and dreams for the future. What we wanted to go to college for, what we wanted to do as a career, and what we wanted to chase for a passion.
I still remember staying up way too late to talk about all these things. I remember in the cold months of 2012 when we first began discussing the concept and idea of writing novels. The seed was planted here. This is where it began, for real. My entire persona, my entire existence as a writer, all began here in a stupid Kik chat with a random girl from a mountain town that I had never even met.
I had always written stories. Most of my stories were poorly written horror and action flick nonsense, but they were stories. I wrote poems for years too, aggrandizing the pain I felt through adolescence. I wrote comic books with a friend from the eighth grade to the tenth grade (instead of doing classwork).
So, when you, Hazel, asked me, "Have you ever thought about writing a novel instead?" I was taken aback. Until this moment, I had never thought that I could write a novel. I never thought it was in the cards. Novels were intimidating to me. They horrified me. They were this monster hiding on my bookshelf. Surely, I could never write a novel! They're long and require so much more planning and plotting and... excuses, excuses.
But you... you assured me I could. You showed me a community of people who were just like us, young writers, who were doing the intimidating things. They were writing full-length novel-esque stories on a site called Wattpad. You showed me this community of people and pointed to them, and you said, "If they can, you can too. You have to take the leap."
So I took the leap and started reading so many of these Wattpad novels that the Wattpad logo surely burned into the screen of my little iPod touch. Eventually, I figured that I could try writing something too.
In early 2013, I started plotting. In early 2013, we drifted apart. Because that's what happens in life sometimes. And sadly, you never got to see the finished products or what became of them. You never got to see all the other works that would have never happened if not for you. Usernames changed and were lost, and life caught up to us way too soon.
Every day, though, I do thank you for the brief time we crossed paths. Without those late-night talks, I would not be here doing what I now know I love to do. I could never thank you enough, Hazel, but I hope my gratitude reaches you out there in some way.
Our next stop is perhaps a much less intense one. And a brief one as well. Sophie, you were instrumental in getting me through the humps of my first, second, and third novels. You were there for me more than anyone else in that time period of 2013–2015 before we too drifted apart, as friends so often do during those formative late-teen and early adult years.
When I was writing on Wattpad, Sophie was probably my number one fan. Always there to message me about new chapters being posted. Always cheering me on for more, to write another chapter, for the story to not be over. Hopefully you see me still writing and see that the story is not, in fact, over.
It is thanks to your constant badgering that I ever managed to get through all those tough bits wherein I wanted to throw in the towel, delete everything I had ever written, and never touch an MS Word document ever again. It was the largest undertaking of any creative project I had ever done. Writing 80,000 words when I had only ever written 4,000.
I know you know that I appreciated every moment of your time spent reading my trashy writing and watching me grow. Even though we drifted apart, I have to thank you a hundred times over for dragging my poor, ragged self through all those late-night writing sessions. Without that, I wouldn't be here doing this right now.
You. There are infinite ways I should thank you.
This one may have hurt more than any breakup. At the end of our friendship, when everything got messy, I was clinging to the fishing net, digging wires into my skin, cutting myself on hopes to save nothing. But before the end, before we drifted in our separate ways, we were great.
You came into my life like a thunderstorm rolling through the plains. Loudly, announcing your presence, you forked lightning through the dark sky so I could see. I met you around the same time I was working on The Colours Betwixt, a novel you so delicately helped me craft until I felt so sure it was the best thing I might ever write (time will tell). There is almost as much of you in that novel as there is me.
We met through writing. You were working on a story, and so was I. We would share notes and chapters and bond over our shared love of the hauntingly depressing nature of our projects. We made each other cry in the best of ways. We bonded over every passion we could conceive of. Perhaps this bonding was too good to be true for our little friendship (of course it was).
In the dying days of summer 2016, you ignited the colors in my soul to finish my latest idea for a novel. You guided my hand along every bump. I was going through a horrid time in my life with a decaying relationship and a festering hole in my chest, a fear of what I was going to do next in my life, and nothing else working out. You became an anchor that helped me stay where I ought to be. The storm would pass, you said. The storm would die, and you would still be here in the morning, you said. You were right. I would still be here, but not you. The storms pushed us apart.
By the fall of 2017, we had become strangers yet again. You became just a painful blip in my history. A friend that was never meant to be here and never meant to not be here either. You became a ghost, and so did I.
I still consider the story you wrote to be the most beautiful piece of writing I've ever read. One of the most hauntingly poetic and horrifically raw experiences to me, and I wish you had decided to pursue writing longer than you did, but you set aside the pen and paper, and with them, I suppose you put me in the same box to collect dust.
But I still have to thank you for all you did to prepare me for a world in which I could see myself being happy again. Beyond all the suffering of my early 20s, you said the shorelines would be awaiting me on the other side of the dark ocean once that storm had passed over us. You promised that it would all work out. And it has, and it is still working itself out.
Thank you. For keeping the lights on. For keeping me grounded. For showing me a path. For keeping my aim. For guiding my soul back. For everything. For so much more than what I can even think to list. I only hope you are happy where you are now, for you deserve the world too.
And the Others?
So many others played pivotal roles in the formation of me, the writer, over the years before 2017. From coffee shop banter with a various assortment of good lads, talking about over-describing doorknobs and of snowmen that would run for government, to all those small hours when we would spend our time drinking and passing around stories of days to come, to late-night chats about poems I wished I had never written, to the screenplays in college, to the radio scripts, to the nonsensical ideas of a midsummer night drunken stupor.
To all those who I never even knew cheered me on. To the friends who always supported me, even though sometimes the words made them cry. To the ones who drew the fan art. To the ones who have been here forever. To the ones who were only here for a moment. Thank all of you, in equal doses, for keeping the flames lit a night longer and keeping the cold at bay, even if only for a moment in time. Thank you.
Well, all of you are my muse now. I find inspiration in all the weirdest places these days, but I mostly write for myself. It's a therapeutic exercise in maladaptive daydreaming (but a socially acceptable one). I have to thank all of you for being here, cheering me on loudly or silently. For waiting on me to put out more work. For telling your friends. For following me around. For clicking links I post. For all you do to keep this whole thing going. Thank you all so much.
And, of course, to the love of my life, who guides my heart to all the right places so that I may feel fulfilled enough in this life to chase my passion here. Without her constant presence, I may have given up completely on this passion. But I remain. Thank you, my love.
And as always, have a good wander!