Monday, February 21, 2011

Personal Inspiration - CJ Omololu

Inspiration. In case you haven't guessed, that is the prompt for this month. I read through the other writer's brilliant posts and sat thinking about the topic for far too long without coming up with much of anything. Music inspires me when I'm trying to write a certain scene and reading a great book inspires me to keep writing and improving (or sends me to bed with a crisis of confidence, but that's another post altogether) but they are not the reason I decided to try writing a book. I seriously thought about abandoning the prompt and rambling on about something else when I finally hit on the thing that inspires me as a writer -my teenage self.

I am...okay, I'll say it...old. I graduated from high school in the mid-80s, the era of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads. I went to high school in a very wealthy, Southern California town where we rented an apartment and I parked my mom's '77 tan Chevy Nova in the school lot next to the new 'Benz's and BMWs that my classmates got for their 16th birthdays. Very early on, I realized that I couldn't compete. I wasn't cute, I wasn't preppy and we weren't rich. So I decided to go in a completely different direction. I cut my hair short, dyed it black and started hanging around downtown, going to clubs and meeting a really diverse group of people who became my friends and support system. Some had been rejected by their families because they were gay. Many were homeless or one step away from it. A lot were teenage drunks or addicts. Most of us were pretty confused. Things happened during those years that I'm not particularly proud of and I came very close to not going to college. A few times, I came close to not doing anything else, ever.

All during this crazy time, I remember an uneasy feeling inside. A constant, low-grade nagging that there had to be something bigger, something more. I remember the night I made the decision that would change everything as I watched some friends shoot up (I'm fairly confident that my parents aren't going to read this). I remember the cockroaches and the mess of the apartment we lived in and the constant crush of bodies that inhabited every room. I remember my best friend being so high she fell down the back staircase and passed out in a heap at the bottom. I remember the conflict and the indecision as the tiny voice inside told me that this wasn't the way things were supposed to go. I didn't fit with the wealthy, preppy kids at my high school, but I didn't belong here either.

Not long after that, I went away to college and slowly grew out of that lifestyle, but I never lost that nagging sensation - no matter what I was doing, there was a constant feeling I should be doing something else. I had no direction, no passion for much of anything and when I graduated, I bounced around from job to job - travel agent (anyone under 20 probably doesn't even know what one is), barrista, waitress, administrative assistant. None of them seemed to 'fit' and nothing calmed the uneasiness I always carried - it was like I was constantly searching for what I was supposed to be and always coming up short.

A few years ago, I decided to try writing and it instantly fit, like finding that perfect pair of jeans after decades of frustration. For the first time I could remember, I felt passionate about something and I threw myself into learning as much as I could about the craft and process of creating fiction. When I'm in the middle of a good writing session, I feel calmer and more satisfied than I ever have in my entire life. The nagging is gone, replaced by the joy of discovering what it was I was born to do - the thing that a tiny part of me always knew and waited for the rest of me to discover.

So that's why I write - because I can't afford not to. The opportunity to reach just one person who needs to hear what I have to say at a pivotal point in their life is one I take very seriously. Everything that has happened in my career has had an element of magic to it, from meeting my agent in an elevator to seeing the cover of DLS for the first time and sucking in my breath because the girl on the cover looked so much like I did at that age.



It took a long time to get here, but I can't let that teenager down after she had the courage to pull herself away one hot summer night and start searching for something bigger in life.

6 comments:

  1. What a great and honest post and one I can relate to in so many ways. I too was from the 80's era and found myself kind of drowning as a teenager.

    So glad you found inspiration in writing and keep writing books as wonderful as Dirty Little Secrets!

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  2. Thanks Janet! If nothing else, our teenage years provide lots of material.

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  3. Your writing will affect teen-agers on the edge! Certain books did that for me, too. Teens on the outside need to know they will be okay, that they will find a niche after high school.

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  4. Intriguing post. For me, YA is sort of a way of writing to my younger self, and it sounds like maybe that's what you're describing here, too.

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  5. You know, it's funny but until this prompt came up I hadn't thought about it much, but then I realized I do write for the younger me.

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  6. Love this post! Thank you for sharing so honestly!

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