by Samantha De La O
photo by Alexa Brennan
When I write, I am able live in that space between romanticism and realism. I see things as they are while simultaneously envisioning them as they could be, if only human error and darkness could recede.
I was around the age of seven when I decided I would be a writer. I had it all figured out: I would move to a city, find a studio apartment, and live there alone save the small gray cat that would keep me company. I imagined my writing desk covered in my favorite books, with only a notepad and a typewriter for me to do my work on—I didn’t think much of computers at the time.
My parents supported this dream completely. My mother, a painter herself, encouraged me to write poetry, and my father introduced me to music, films and eventually books, all of which had a tremendous influence on the artist I was becoming. I won several awards for my poems as a girl, and I wrote countless stories and plays which my classmates performed in.
As I got older, the dream began dissipate. I forgot about the poetry and I had no taste for writing fiction. I tried to keep a journal once, but even that failed, because I was never in the mood to write. I did a lot of sketching in this time—a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember—but I never really thought to do anything with it. I guess I recognized where my talent lied. I may not have been in the frame of mind to write anything, but I knew enough to acknowledge that my enjoyment of sketching and painting did not equate to talent.
We were children who did not know the meaning of compromise, but I remember that relationship as fondly as I do my love for the stage.
When I was twelve, I signed up for theater at my junior high and fell in love with it. The exhilarating freedom of performing as a character on stage was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I wanted more. It was enough to get me to continue with it for the next five years. I met my boyfriend, Tyler, in one of those drama classes. We played the leads in Rapunzel, my first high school play, and I fell in love with him sometime between then and the middle of that year. We were children who did not know the meaning of compromise, but I remember that relationship as fondly as I do my love for the stage.
I will admit, I did think that I could be an actress. My father wanted to be an actor when he was younger, and my parents met and fell in love in their high school drama class—being an actress just made sense to me, so I pursued it every chance I got.
The pursuit of stage acting led me to volunteer at my church, as an actress for their week-long summer day camp. For the first two summers I played fun characters, and I enjoyed it tremendously. But when it came time to sign up for a third summer, the summer I turned sixteen, something went wrong. The person who consistently ran the theater program and wrote the plays we performed had quit, and without a script, there was no point in having actors.
I do not recall the circumstances surrounding my volunteering to write the script that summer, but I know I did, though I was mildly terrified of what that would entail.
I do not recall the circumstances surrounding my volunteering to write the script that summer, but I know I did, though I was mildly terrified of what that would entail. As it turned out, I had no need to be afraid. I’d never written a full-length play before, so the process was challenging, but once we began to perform it, and people began to respond well to it, I began to visualize the dream of my seven-year-old self once more. I dated someone throughout this time, but he was not a part of this story. In all the time I knew him, he was never really a part of my creative life. He didn’t understand it, and at times I think he may have even been jealous of my passion—but that is something I will never know with certainty.
As long as I have been close to him, he has given me something to write about.
I would like to say that writing that play, and the two that followed it, was enough to catapult me into actively pursuing writing again, but as with all special things, it took a lot of time. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when I took my first creative writing workshop, that I finally began to pursue fiction again. The stories I wrote for that class were not particularly good or special, but the feeling I had while writing them was enough to incite the passion I’d had as a child. It was in that creative writing class that I first met my now fiance, an immensely talented writer I deeply admire. As long as I have been close to him, he has given me something to write about.
I am not entirely sure why romance has been so thoroughly intertwined with my artistic growth. I suppose it was the daydreamer in me, altering her reality until it resembled the fictional mold she had envisioned. I craved romance, I think, because the emotions attached to it ran deep, and it was an experience I deemed worthy of recreating on a page.
There is, however, a realist in me that is one and the same with the daydreamer. I do not view the world with blind optimism. I know that romance ends and people separate; that our little world is as dreadfully vile as it is wondrous and delightful; that there are innumerable questions we will spend our entire lives calculating, only to discover that the answers never wanted to be found. When I write, I am able live in that space between romanticism and realism. I see things as they are while simultaneously envisioning them as they could be, if only human error and darkness could recede.
I like it there, and I don’t plan on leaving.