Arts & Culture, Open Mic

Open Mic: My Other Self by Josiah Alons

I have failed. I have always tried to write, to capture the thoughts that swirl wildly within me. I have tried to tame them, to calm the tsunami of ideas which overcome my imagination. Time and time again, I have sat down to write. The words do not flow. They attempt to capture my inmost being, but they fail. Does it matter?

Explosions. A dreary outlook over a burning land. A voice! Proclaiming healing over the land. Pure evil. A struggle. A dark form wailing, plunging into an abyss. Silence. A gleaming figure steps from the shadows…
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My fingers hover above the paper, a gleaming yellow No. 2 pencil clenched between them. At nine years old, I have a goal in mind: write a novel. The first words take shape. The main character, a cat, charges forth, destroys a herd of ruthless hippos, and restores order to the land. For months, for years, I am satisfied with this. I name the character Simba. My imagination takes her on journeys more wild, into battles more fierce, than this world has ever seen.

Frustration. As I slowly read it to my brother, I realize that my words cannot capture the visions that take place within me.

The cause must be my character!

Who cares about a Siberian tiger cat? Unwilling to give up my hero, I struggle to form romantic, dramatic scenes, but I end up writing drawn-out narratives and pitiful images. I throw it away with a sigh, but my mind is already churning out new book ideas.
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Armor glinting brightly in the sun. A plain filled with dark-faced, ugly, swarthy soldiers. A small, heroic band gathered around a superhuman captain. One word splits the air. “Charge!”
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Twelve years old. I hunch over my keyboard, push my blue glasses up for the umpteenth time, and start vigorously typing out the story of an Egyptian slave who becomes a Roman nobleman. Fantastic scenes play out in my mind, but they never reach the paper. I write a scene. And another. They are cheesy, useless. They convey no emotion. And even later, they become comical.

Anger. I try to pound it out on the keyboard, but the results are far from satisfying. Disappointed but undaunted, I begin to envision a new character. A man. Tall, with golden hair and blue eyes. I see him. I write him down; he becomes another story.
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Confused shrieks. An ambush! Arrows flying everywhere, swords confusedly clashing. A small child hidden by a graying older man. Whispering. The child flees. The old man falls, fighting valiantly. The evil usurper steps out of the shadows, exulting over his newly won kingdom…
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My first trilogy attempt. The main character is the character of my dreams. Peter is his name. A confusing mix of Peter Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, he is perfect in every way. I capture his most heroic moments on paper. I am disillusioned. The story does not flow; it is not real. More than that, it is not my own. It is a mash up of the different books I have read, the movies that imprinted their images on my mind. I try to revise it, but each attempt makes it worse than the last version.

Wrath. Peter becomes a part of myself. I run around our house, swinging imaginary swords and dodging imaginary arrows to the astonishment and dismay of my mother. Whenever I imagine a particularly thrilling scene, I rush to inscribe it. But all my attempts are cheap, black and white testimonies to my failure. My spirits begin to droop, but I tell myself to try again.
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The horizon is clear; the sun shines brightly. A tall figure stands at the summit of a plunging cliff.

“I will have my revenge!” His words hang in the air. He turns. The shadows swallow him up.
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My hero changes for the last time. I rename him Hijax. He is more real to me than any other character was. He is who I wish I could be. He is honest, brave, strong, and handsome. The more I write about him, the more I am satisfied with the way he is portrayed. I leave the story for a few years, but he lives in my mind, urging me to brave deeds—a constant reminder that my work isn’t finished. He is my other self. I know his moods more intimately than I know my best friend’s.

I return to the book. I am struck down. The words are shallow, conveying no meaning. The speeches are unrealistic encounters where the characters immaculately argue. No feelings are shown. Even battle scenes are “clean.” There is no mention of the struggle the characters undergo, no feelings of agony, hurt, or sadness. My hero simply sweeps all away before him with a mighty sword, wins the love of a beautiful girl, and rides away into a celebration. It is what I had always imagined, but there is little, if any conflict. I sigh.

How could I expect my books to change?

Remorse. The part of me that is hidden, that thirsts for mighty deeds and thrilling battles, languishes. It accuses me. How could I attempt to capture it in words? The task is too large for me. My writing is too insignificant to make a dent in the sea of my imagination. Has it really improved? It still holds none of the wonder, none of the beauty, none of the agony, that I want it to capture. It draws a narrow picture of a universe just waiting to be explored. It strikes me to the soul because I am trying to capture a part of myself. If I can’t do that, if I can’t capture my own feelings through the façade of my main character, how can I expect to be a writer?
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Running. A small figure overshadowed by a huge flying monster. It reaches a cliff face. Frantic scrabbling. The winged shape grows and grows. At the last possible moment, it swings around, a glittering sword in hand, ready for a last stand. A thrilling shriek. The sword wavers for an instant, then is swung straight at the monster’s heart…
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The Return of the King hits my desk with a thump as I finish Tolkien’s trilogy for the fifteenth time. I stare into the distance, feeling the burning desire to write struggling out of the depths of my soul where it has slept for years. I slowly open my computer, my eyes scanning all of the different books that I have written.

And then I realize it. This is my story. Not Tolkien’s. But still I am afraid.

My hands tremble above the keys. There is so much I want to say, but it comes to me in disjointed fragments, forgotten dreams. I start to write. The story flowers before me on the screen. I pound faster and faster; my vision grows before me. Hijax runs, fights, agonizes, and fears throughout the pages. For the first time, he changes. He is human.

Maybe this attempt to capture my hidden character will fail. Maybe I will see it as shallow once again. But I am a writer. And I will write my story. I may never capture my other self; I may never see him live his life in a reality that is vivid and believable, but I know one thing.

I will try.
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An old, white-haired king. His children run around him, begging for a story. He smiles. At his side, a sword long unused hangs and touches the floor at its tip. He slowly draws it, shimmering, into his lap. “I will tell you my story…”

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Meet the Author

How old are you?
I am 16 years old.

Where do you live?
In Timnath, CO.

What classes are you taking with TPS?
AP Calculus AB with Mrs. Crosby and German 4 with Frau Young

What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love to see where the imagination takes a writer—sometimes, the places you go to are a lot different than the ones you planned. The uncertainty and explosive nature of writing is fascinating to me.

30 Comments

  1. HI Josiah!
    This is awesome! It perfectly captures the perfectionist’s dismay at writing. xD I can’t tell you how many times I have felt all this myself.

  2. This is a beautiful rendition of a writer’s life. The desire you have to write your story will continually come to fruition because a writer knows that to write is to re-write, and re-write and re-write. The wonderful thing is that writing your heart will change someone, even if it is yourself, just as you have so set forth. Always keep trying because your message is needed.

  3. Savannah Lea Morello

    Woah, Josiah! How did I not know you write? That’s really cool.

    And thanks for sharing this part of your journey! It’s honestly so relatable. My books are never what I want. They never will be, either. I’ll always be able to imagine more than I can write. But then, if perfection were achievable, it wouldn’t really be worth going for, would it? Limitations define being; without them, nothing is (not even God). Writing has to be limited. But sometimes that drives me absolutely nuts 😂

    Anyhow, great article!!

    • mebbe because I didn’t tell you heh sorry xd
      Thanks so much for your comments!

    • @ Savannah: We INTJ-Ts have a lot of secrets, some dark, some not so dark. As for writing never being satisfying, I totally agree. After about 5 or 6 revisions, I am still trying to get a story off the ground. 😕
      @ Josiah: writing about writing was a genius idea for how to convey what you actually wanted to convey in the first place. It seems like describing the imperfection of your writing is the worst possible way to do that, but in fact, it isn’t. It opens this window into your real other self that the confines of a single story cannot possibly portray.

  4. The Person Who Bombed Your Calc Class

    Mind blown…this is so NOT how I have heard my brother talk about you. This is amazingly deep. It is so vivid, I think you might want to consider writing poetry. Keep writing, keep striving, keep being perfectionist–it isn’t a bad thing. Run the race as if to win! I am sure you will succeed, in some small way at least. In fact, you already have–this piece has already captured your other self, even if not in the form of someone else.
    Great job! This sounds stupid, but I bet you revised this a lot 🤣! I cannot say how many times I have felt the same way about my own writing (even though I do not write very much outside of quarantine, when I actually have things to do).
    P.S. How did you get this through even though it was over 1200 words? The Senior editors say the max the website will take is 1200, so they must have gotten something wrong…
    P.P.S. You should know who I am, but please leave my name concealed.

  5. Michelle Morello

    Josiah,
    This is so good! You’re an amazing writer. Keep writing for God😊

  6. Eeeeeyyy this is great!!!! You’re an awesome writer!!

  7. Lilwen Maethor

    Wow!! This is so encouraging!! Thank you for writing 😊

  8. Hey Josiah! This is amazing! My characters are always so real to me, but I have trouble making them seem real to others.

    BTW, you’re not the only one who runs around the house swinging swords and ducking arrows 😀

  9. Luke Walker

    Wow! This sums up my writing frustrations…lol. My sister is attempting to help me though

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