On Being a Draft

By Emily Joy Allison-Hearn

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was 7, I had an enormous blue drawing pad and a set of colored pencils and wrote my very first diary, each page in a different color. I wrote about having adventures in my friends’ backyards, about really wanting to have a slumber party for my next birthday and hoping my parents would let me. I was going to be 8, after all.

I made my first forays into fiction at that time, too. They were partially true stories involving me, my siblings and neighbors, and an imaginary alien friend I had created. Eventually I wrote a series of YA-novelesque short stories in which a curiously unfortunate group of friends narrowly escaped death by various natural disasters through divine intervention at the last moment… but hopefully those manuscripts never surface.

When I discovered poetry, I was 13. Remember forums? I guess they still exist, but forums were HOT in 2004. They were THE thing to do. I was part of a Christian girls forum put on by the publishers of Brio magazine, and there was a thread where everyone was sharing poems they had written. I didn’t have anything to share, but I wanted to, so I went and wrote a poem—a precocious little piece about entering my teen years and feeling like I was leaving my childhood irrevocably behind. It was awful, but it felt good. It felt very good.

I began writing poetry every day. It became an addiction, an addiction of self-expression. Poetry carried me through the tumultuous years of adolescence that lay ahead—through crushes, rejection, drama, breakups, church conflict, abuse, even through the first time I thought I was in love. I got measurably better as time went on, which was a comfort, but it wasn’t really the point. My poetry was for me. It was my shelter. It was my safe place. It was free therapy.

But around the time I entered college I realized that maybe, just maybe, my poetry wasn’t just for me. Maybe it had originated somewhere outside of myself, maybe it was bigger than me, and maybe the impact of it would last much longer than my short life. I began to understand the potency of words, not just in how mine moved others but in how others’ moved me. I saw minds and hearts changed, and I changed my own. Then I changed them again. I became a draft that was never done being revised, but I hit “publish” nonetheless.

And maybe that is the point. Maybe if art is the thing you choose to spend your short time in the universe doing, you are supposed to be a public display of evolution, and therefore of hope, for all to see: a testimony that yes, change is possible. Watch me.

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