To Weave A World
Susanna D'Silva, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s1d2

I have a half-formed theory at the back of my mind that none of us ever truly see the world; we only perceive it. As someone who’s worn glasses since the third grade, I am fully aware of the importance of physical sight; but as a writer, I have discovered that all the reality in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t make someone aware of it. Billions of universes are scattered across planet Earth, each of them contained in a human mind. That is where we process and construct our own version of reality, hampered by the limits of the dimensions we operate in and the knowledge we’ve gathered. For example, I cannot see time, but because of clocks, because of calendars, because of the aging of my own body, I know it’s passing. Thus, I am able to mark its passage as I look around: I know that the seasons are changing when leaves drop or flowers bloom, and I know that every rise and fall of the sun is bringing it closer to some inevitable end. But there’s so much I don’t know. At a microscopic level, I have no clue what is happening even on the sofa I sit on. On an electromagnetic level, I can only know the colors around me that are part of the visible spectrum.

Taking what I know and what I see around me and turning it into words is not just something I do when I’m hunched over my laptop, avidly typing out the newest chapter to one of my stories. It’s a habit, a constant stream of consciousness running through my mind. It must sound slightly strange to others, but the truth is, I am constantly translating the world around me into prose. In fact, I love it. Walking through the park at sunset is one of my favorite things to do. I reach out and feel the fabric of the world around me -- knit from the gossamer wings of fireflies dancing through the hazy twilight, woven from strands of emerald grass waving in the evening breeze, embroidered with bursts of children’s laughter curling into the sky like bright sparks -- and paint a world so vibrant and vital that it becomes real. Put on paper, the words flow together to make that world as visible to someone on the other side of the planet as it is to me.

Of course, some people question this method of writing. What is the point of being distracted all the time, of being so caught up in your own thoughts? Doesn’t it make you miss out on the things happening right around you? Yet I feel like this is the only way to write: earnest, honest, straight from the heart of your own life. Narrating your own life inside your head actually allows you to be incredibly present in every moment. In fact, thanks to the staggering realization it confronts you with -- this is your story -- it pushes you out of your head. Other distractions and worries fade away with this epiphany, and you take the story into your own hands. Once the setting is established, it is time for you to create the emotions, the character, the choices, and the events. The adventure of your life is beckoning, only the pull is ten times stronger because you are not just a vessel of skin and bone and pulsing blood -- you are an author. With every passing second, your footsteps drip ink across the canvas of time, writing out your story.

Whether I want to write fantasy or realistic fiction, I find myself reaching for the well in my heart that I have filled with bits of the world I have collected -- bits from all across time and place, and from all across the spectrum of emotions I have ever felt. I carefully unspool each image and pull the threads that I need. From nights when I bolted upright, heart pounding from all-too-real nightmares, I pull fear and loneliness; from early Christmas mornings filled with the smell of gingerbread and the crackle of wrapping paper, I pull anticipation and happiness; from the heart-wrenching moment I first saw my mother cry, I pull sorrow and worry.

To weave a world together in a book, you need all of these things. Your perception of the world around you must be poignant and detailed enough to make it come alive for someone else, which is why it is so essential that the material you use needs to be so carefully preserved. For me, it truly feels a bit like I’m holding a constant conversation with myself, a conversation about life that is so interesting that I can return to it later and pluck little bits of it to drop into my stories. In doing so, I revisit and relive my own memories, and each one becomes more precious because of the care that has gone into illustrating it and storing it away safely in the eaves of the story-source library of my mind. Journaling my experiences within my own mind allows me to process the world as diligently and open-mindedly as I can, and putting the things I learn into stories allows me to reflect on the kind of story I want my own life to tell. I would not give up being a writer for the world; I am grateful for the voices in my head, grateful for both the sense and the nonsense that they string together; for together, they are the sum of my perceptions, the sum of the world I walk through. Ultimately, they are what makes me me, and they make up the personal translation of the universe that I carry in my own head and heart.
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