I gave up nights with my brothers. Instead of going upstairs and sitting in their room and watching mindless television before we all passed out together, I swung around in my computer chair, chewing on ice, typing out as much as I could muster before my mother told me to go to sleep. The payment for words was not watching SNL, Three Ninjas, TMNT, and Blue's Clues.
I gave up hijinks with friends I never had. I snuck into alcoves during recess, and at home, I spent most of my summers on my front porch with a notebook. The neighborhood kids roamed the streets, eating ice cream and throwing baseballs. I wrote about people like them. I nearly tricked myself into thinking I'd lived a childhood dappled with Sandlot-esque adventures. But then I just realized I'd watched Sandlot a lot.
I gave up secrets. Each time something happened to me, it wouldn't stay inside. I'd make a character, I'd throw it out there into the world, and a few people would read it. Then more people read it.
I gave up my home. I moved four hundred miles away, and at the fancy college, I gave up my agency to tell what was good and what was bad. I listened intently, took many notes, and my best friend and I gave up the real world to sequester ourselves in coffee shops and talk about our manuscripts and only our manuscripts. We gave up a real friendship, tied together with fictional characters we both loved. Did we love each other?
I gave up one night going out to see some movie with my friends, because I needed to write this one scene where a prison explodes. I turned off all the lights, and I put in a track from The Dark Knight, and I typed for three hours straight.
I gave up weekends. I gave up by-chance meetings in the cafeteria. I should have given more, because I still didn't write enough.
He stood in front of the class and said, "This character of yours is wrong! This script is wrong! This is all wrong!"
I gave up thinking I could do this.
I gave up and went home. I gave up the life I wanted to make money. I gave up a job to date a boy.
But then the boy said not to give up.
So I told him what I had sacrificed, what we would sacrifice. Money, time, nights out on the town, a relationship only about us. I told him how one writer told me about sitting at his uncle's death bed with a laptop on his lap so he could still make a deadline.
But the boy didn't say anything when I gave up watching television with him to type in my computer chair. He didn't say anything when we didn't go outside and we didn't make many friends. I made a friend who saw me writing and wanted to write, too, and we wrote together. I gave up my concerns and quit my job and flew halfway across the country to learn as much as I could. I gave up worrying.
Now I give up full days to writing things I will end up deleting. I give up anxiety to send out queries and submissions. And there are some days where I don't think I can do this, where I should just go back and get a real job, and things get really tense, and I can't write anything good, and everyone hates me.
But I'll never give up.
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.