iván BRAVE

Writer

An exercise in self-definition: why I write

20 March 2019
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What if I told you a story?

 

Breakfast with mamá, galleria area Houston, 2014 — the year I came back home to live with my parents.

 

She hints at my finding a job as casually as she stirs the sugar in her coffee. I ruffle my nose. It would be easy, she suggests, to apply for a teaching certificate. The school her brother founded has opened a new class, 8 am – 5 pm, with workshops, instruction, and classroom time. In four weeks I could work in any school around the world. Just like her.

 

Naturally I have other plans.

 

Beer with papá, backyard of our house in Houston, same year — the year that blew by, apparently.

 

He asks if I ever thought of becoming an architect, just like him, as straight forward as starting a cigar. I fold my arms. It would be simple, he suggests, because he could help me. People from all backgrounds apply for a design masters, they finish school in a few years, and can work at it just like that. He can help me find work, he clarifies.

 

Of course I had other ideas.

 

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(tldr; the above)

 

I can’t believe how years go by, and with each, (a) myriad (of) doors open and close. The chance for employment at radio stations as content creator, as salesperson, come and go. The chance to pursue a music career vanishes. The opportunity to stay abroad disappears.

 

Sometimes a single decision can affect the rest of your life.

 

In the end, which is to say, “by now,” I have incorporated my parents’ wishes into my identity. Parents are often right.

 

Why I am a writer (a post to the curious).

 

I’ve written about this here and there on other posts and in many an entry. Or maybe I’ve just said it to myself long enough for it to feel repetitive (it feels repetitive). Certainly folks have asked me countless times. I wonder what friends, family and strangers get from knowing the story. What is on the other side of that river for them, which they cross by asking? An interesting story, perhaps, an insight, a nugget of inspiration. Perhaps to the perhaps, what they need is a story: like when we bump into a comedian, and the first thing we ask them is for a joke.

 

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Destiny.

 

Destiny who?

 

Destiny’s child.

 

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A holy mountain in Spain. That’s why I write.

 

I knew I wanted to be a writer after graduating from college (2013), after backpacking Europe with my best friends (what a trip), after getting back home in Austin where I had signed a lease for another year, but for naught, because I didn’t have a job to go back to, so I spent pretty much every day and every night applying for jobs and watching YouTube videos. (Raise your hand if you’ve been there!)

 

One night, an empty pizza box and a convenience store bottle of red wine as my witnesses, I composed a page of prose.

 

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It was the story of a father and a son confessing their suicidal thoughts to one another at the edge of a rock cliff in west Texas. Like in a dream, I don’t remember how or why I started writing, or what happened after — just like in the writing, I ignored how or why the characters had gotten to that point. Simply it all came to in a flash. Boom. I had a nano short story.

 

As if telling myself a bedtime story, I remember reaching the final line and quietly shaking with a buzz down my spine. I turned in for bed and slept like a baby.

 

Months go by.

 

I got internships, eventually, got jobs, but nothing surpassed the idleness achieved in those first nights back home in Austin, when my entire body found itself cocooned in a silent glory where my every dream and fantasy night after night could make its way onto individual Word documents on the very computer I am typing on today.

 

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I want to be a writer.

 

I want to be a writer.

 

In the name of all that felt right I want to be a writer.

 

One source of insecurity years ago was the fact that other folks had read more than me, started writing poems earlier than me, meanwhile I wiled away my adolescence playing computer games and popping pimples. It is almost like how other people tell themselves about the time they have wasted. We would all be Jason Mraz if we started playing the ukulele at five. But what the hell fun would that be? I don’t know what the world needs, but it can’t be a bunch of guitar heroes. Does it need another writer? Well, here I am, rock you like a hurricane.

Even now, I don’t know.

 

It sort of just happened. I wrote A Summer Abroad: a memoir, which turned into The Summer Abroad: a novel, at the start of 2014. The same year my folks poked me to find a job. I took their advice but in circumvent. By the end of that year I was finishing a second book, inspired by another summer trip. The following year, in Buenos Aires, I wrote short stories and enough journals to fill a book shelf. (Raise your hand if you’ve done that!)

 

A year later, 2016, I entered the creative writing program at the New School in the Empire State. I have always followed my instinct, for better or for worse, and I can’t look back with a frown, really, only a smile.

 

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I guess.

 

I guess I could say something like stories sell, and people need storytellers. As easily and silly would be to say people enjoy entertainment, and writing makes money. As simple and casual as mixing sugar with water or inhaling smoke would be to type up a cuento on how I wrote poems all my life or read One Thousand and One Nights in middle school or something. But nah. There is no grand epic, no extraterrestrial intervention, no practical scheme to becoming a writer. It just happened. Partly because I wanted to, partly because I could, but mostly because I scarified other possibilities; I pruned my hedge and made it grow in one direction, up.

 

Background? No, or yes. My childhood was common, a drop in the ocean, with some cool trips and a loving family, habits and relationships that have lasted me so far and will, too. Growing up bilingual and the handful of creative writing classes I took throughout my life have positioned me to love language and appreciate stories for themselves. I got certified to teach, and that was the only way I could pay my way through graduate school for writing. I didn’t join any architecture firm, but I started my own business in self-publishing. Parents are often right. I’m grateful I got to take their advice my own way.

 

Oh, and the holy mountain?

 

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That was the tipping point during the summer in Europe, you’re gunna have to get a copy of the book, if you’re interested in the juice, the tea, of why I write.

 

Until then, a story.

 

Once upon a time there lived a terrible king who forced everyone to work from Monday to Monday. The people had no music, no dance, and no time for fun. It went on like this until everyone grew thin to the bone. On a particularly harsh summer, everything everyone had worked so hard for burned, burned. Amid such sweaty turmoil and back-aching devastation, the people cried to the king to spare them from punishment. It wasn’t their fault, they cried, and the king listened. The cry and the empathy, the peace that followed and the love that ensued, slowly everyone felt, was by definition the creation of art. Art kept the people going, another crop cycle came, and with it, their happily ever after.

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