I've been underestimated plenty of times in my life. I’m a relatively small girl with a face that makes me look three years younger than I actually am. I’m the youngest in many spaces I inhabit, and currently, I’m hobbling around in an ankle brace.
But writing gives me power.
It lets me wield the strength of the seas, tsunamis held back by an angry protagonist who’s barely older than me. It lets me scream and bang my fists against a wall, and gives me a shoulder to cry on when I feel like I can give no more.
Writing is, in essence, my soul.
My soul is scribbled with 3am notes, indecipherable and almost entertaining when I look back at them the next morning, laughing and wondering what was I thinking? My soul is scrawled with three different universes, their countries and wars buried deep in my bones. I bleed when my characters do, I cry when they do, I get stronger for them, I push through trials and tribulations telling myself they could do it too. When I’m training and I feel like I can’t push any harder, I imagine my characters beside me. When I look into the mirror, face streaked with tears and eyes swollen and red, I remember that as long as I have these beautiful, strong people at my side, I can get through this. My character, Tallmadge, says to herself if the stars could burn through the falls of empires, then I can do this. I took that quote, wrote it on a card and attached it to my backpack so I carry that reminder of endurance everywhere I go.
Because that’s what it means to be a writer. It means that you sacrifice sleep for your stories, you’ve mastered the practice of alchemy by pushing through the bad words knowing you’ll craft them into gold. It means looking to the greats and their own lives, smiling at the self-recognition. See, if Jane Austen felt that way, then it’s gonna turn out alright for me.
And writing seems to be the only place I can’t be underestimated. Words are a sharp weapon, and I hit fast and hard, then use them to heal. It’s a tool I’ve been developing from a young age.
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. I scribbled in the margins of my first-grade notebook, stories of princesses who didn’t need a knight to save them. Though cliché now, I rarely saw it enough as a seven year old. The first true story I wanted to write was about a soccer team with superpowers. (I don’t know what I was thinking) I was always drawn to the stories of the unconventional. The stories that weren’t told. Which was why, when sitting down and writing my first serious effort for a book I gave my protagonist ADHD.
See, my ADHD makes me forget things, I space out, I can’t verbalize emotional thoughts, and I felt like it infantilized me. So I gave Tallmadge my struggles, and also gave her power that ensured she would never be underestimated. She controls shadows. She is darkness incarnate. But she still trips over her words, fidgets, has trouble focusing and reading. And readers loved her. She’s a favorite, pulling in readers with her tenacity and fierceness and special relatability for neurodivergent readers. And when Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra “I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know” concerning Elizabeth Bennet, I knew I felt the exact same way with Tallmadge.
Each writer has a unique motivation for writing. Mine is, well, because I don’t know what else I could ever do. These words, and characters, their worlds are carved into every move I make, every university I look into, every conversation with a friend. From the moonlit desert Helen dashes across, stolen money in hand, to the sprawling cityscape Tallmadge fights in, to the seas Val traverses her way across, these stories have taken a part of me with them. They’ve lent me their strength and ferocity, their thoughts and emotions and helped me find light in the darkest of times. When I wanted to give up, they put their hands on my shoulder and said not yet. The words gifted to us by those who came before keep us going. Seeing the joy in a classic author referring to their book as a child, or saying they weren’t sure where a character came from but they knew in their heart they liked them, it gives us a path to take with this oftentimes lonely craft.
And — I can’t be underestimated with this. In my family, I’m the only writer, it’s something all my own. It’s something I’m good at, it’s my superpower. I have several pieces forthcoming. I work long hours and late nights for this, I write the lives of my characters on my soul along with my messy notes and coffee stained scratch paper. I plant family trees and watch them grow. I would be so fundamentally different if I didn’t have the foundation of writing to build my life upon. I would feel so much weaker, so powerless, if I could not rely on the courage that wielding words gives me.
is a student from Texas who has been writing stories since she could hold a pencil. She has work forthcoming with journal of erato and SeaGlass Literary. You can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org