At age 5, I made a decision.
I knew then, what I know now; when it came to writing, I had to do it my own way. I often wonder how this outlook of mine even came to fruition –— how did it evolve? My upbringing certainly didn’t outright discourage creative outlets or outputs, but it always came down to: how can you make a living out of it?
And so, I wrote fantastical short stories constantly throughout my childhood between poring through books. I read about Br’er rabbit, the Pevensie children, and Grace Willingdon. Reading Amazing Grace was where I learned we black girls could do anything. My parents couldn’t afford to (though perhaps more realistically, justify) send me to the writing camps I so desperately wanted to go to. Not a criticism of them, but a fact. Still, this disappointment — this reality — made me scrappy. I continued to read and write and once I hit high school, I discovered my second love, theatre. No, I didn’t see all that many plays, but something about theatre, or rather, playwriting, opened up a world of possibilities. There were other opportunities outside of fiction. I was a young black teen going to school in the suburbs and so possibility and opportunity were important. I’m still not a playwright, and haven’t written plays in years, but it taught me I could write anything if I wanted to. Still, I was still looking for what I wanted before: some sort of formal education, proof that I was a real writer. So, one day, many years after I made this major decision, I did the opposite of what 5-year old me would do, and I signed up for Humber College’s Creative Writing by Correspondence Program. I finally realized, I couldn’t do this on my own.
There’s so many things no one told me about writing a book. For starters, it’s actually lonely as hell. No one will tell you that it’s okay to not want to write any of your book at all. A story may chase you. Confront you. Even scream at you. But, you don’t have to listen. Not until you’re ready. Even if you’re on a deadline. Sometimes, you’ll cry. Sometimes, you’ll quit and it’s usually temporary. Some people quit permanently. And that’s okay. Maybe that story wasn’t ready to be told.
No one tells you that your first draft or drafts won’t be perfect. They may even be terrible. They might be disjointed. They may have no plot at all. They may have too much plot. Your characters may not be developed. You might not know how to keep your voice and tone consistent. People will suggest great books and helpful resources but their contents may not stick with you. It may take you a long time to learn. And that’s okay, too.
You’ll want to prove them wrong.
I want to prove them wrong.
Nailah King is a Toronto-based writer and her work focuses on social justice and explores racism, discrimination, identity and her Caribbean heritage. To read more of Nailah’s work, visit www.wordandcolour.com.