Affinity | Teen Ink


January 22, 2009
By Keith Bouchard SILVER, Goffstown, New Hampshire
Keith Bouchard SILVER, Goffstown, New Hampshire
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

There is an ultimate goal set before every person. Some search their whole lives, simply attempting to discover what such a goal may even be, some people push this ambiguity away, and some are born knowing exactly what it is; but despite which of these people one might be, everyone all their lives have their hands out, stretched above them, reaching for some uncertainty that promises fulfillment—their life’s achievement. Some fail to ever find it, giving up and moving to what comes next. Some never even try. But it is the one’s that always keep their hands outstretched above them—not giving up—reaching for this thing in the sky, this dream, that one day finally reach it, and grasp it, pulling it to earth with them. It’s that very thing every person has at one point or another felt upon looking toward the stars and feeling that sense of destiny, of searching for an answer. That is where it is pulled from. And when it is at last held—when they do not give up… well, those are the one’s that go down in history.

I know what it is that I reach for. I have felt it above me everyday, the goal I dream about every night—the one that returns as I try to sleep, reminding me to keep working, or reminding me that I had either put a day to good use trying to find it, or wasted it. Sometimes as I try to surrender to my dreams, I hope so badly that in them I may have a taste of what is to come, of what I still reach for. And those feelings are what remind me that I’ve known my whole life what it is I stretch for, regardless of when it had actually occurred to me for the first time.

What it is that I reach for is recognition as a writer.

I remember one day sitting in a car seat. It is something I remember clearly—the many signs blurring past the window, puddles of sun leaking out from behind each advertisement that I so badly wished to understand; it made me angry, some days. Everyone else could read these signs, and yet I sat helplessly uneducated, my sister as my only source of knowledge, translating each image of gibberish I saw outside into understandable words. The feeling was almost that of being handicapped. Perhaps that is why the memory of my first writing and reading lesson return to me so freshly. I can remember where I sat within the kindergarten classroom, my teacher perched excitedly before us, a red marker in her ready hand. ‘A-T’—the first two letters she wrote along a large easel of lined paper for us to look on. My first reaction was flat; I’d seen these words countless times, reciting the alphabet so mindlessly—over and over and over—that it had fallen from interest and became nothing but a recitation, a droning. But then something changed. A chemical reaction occurred, something within the creative outlet of my mind, plugging into a wall for the first time, feeling the energy, a spark releasing into the open air—she had placed a ‘C’ before the ‘A-T’. And that was the first written word I had ever laid eyes on that I had understood.
My eyes were wide, my head no longer upon my open palm, and my back no longer slouched. I quite nearly fell from my chair as she flipped the page, this time placing a large, red ‘H’ before her ‘A-T’. And then came ‘F’. And as class ended, my mind was solely focused on this magnificent root of ‘A-T’, of which had assured me that I would soon have the English language mastered tomorrow morning during my kindergarten Language Arts class; I set my plans to write my first novel at that moment, at five-years-old. Things obviously took some time longer, of course, but my younger self continued in that same vein of optimism, digging through the alphabet, swapping and replacing each letter before ‘A-T’ with a new one, eager and confident; there was ‘P-A-T’, and ‘R-A-T’, even ‘S-A-T’—oh, and of course ‘B-A-T’, ‘M-A-T’, but as my options soon began to shorten, it quickly occurred to me that, possibly, finding a key to quickly learning every word I’d ever heard would not come with only the amazing ‘A-T’. But my mind didn’t stop. As I waited for sleep, I recounted all I had learned and thought on during the day, soon learning that ‘S’ held just as much opportunity as ‘A-T’ did. ‘B-A-T-S’, ‘M-A-T-S’, and ‘R-A-T-S’—yes, yes, I’d certainly be able to impress my teacher the next morning with all that I had stumbled over, all my findings, which were as golden to me as the treasure the normal boy pretended to dig up in his backyard the house over from mine
Once I had relatively acquired the skill of reading and writing, I set out to write the next Nobel Prize winner for literature at about the age of seven. Most times, I simply drafted out what my acceptance speech would entail, who would I would thank—my parents, my sister, my cousin, my kindergarten teacher, the letters ‘A-T’, whoever had written my favorite picture book about a sick bunny family making soup. Most of these stories I still have somewhere, stashed away in a large box of old school creations; one of the first things I had ever written revolved around the story of a young Chinese boy whose parents owned a Chinese restaurant. The young boy loved his parents, and also a young girl he had seen visit frequently for dinner; every night this boy would open up another fortune cookie and read what it told him to do. It got quite the attention amongst my peers—mostly because by the end of the story the little boy had died, sacrificing his life for the girl and his parents’ restaurant at the command of a tragic fortune cookie. Everyone who read it glanced at me with worried eyes. I thought it was meaningful. But now that I reflect on it, I might have felt the same about a second grader writing of such things.

This creative, linguistic ambition, however, was a result of not only my curious attraction to letters and vocabulary, but others, too. I grew up with a close relationship to a cousin who shared my passion for the written word. I often remember sitting in his office as he told me all about his plan, he being merely a child, and I younger. I would confide him how I, too, had begun the development of the best piece of literature the world would ever see. He always nodded, returning to talking about his own novel, telling me he had planned everything out—planned his plot and novel so meticulously that writing it would only be a task of filling in the gaps. Such a thing sounded monotonous. But writing was monotonous—it was tedious and time-consuming, but as I grew, I could think of not one other thing that I would prefer to devote time to. And so my stories grew more detailed and planned, and I forced myself to outline an introduction, middle and end. It was clear by what I used to write that I drew inspiration from other writers. When I read Tolkien, I wrote about elves or magical items and when I began reading King, I wrote about scary mansions. But soon these literary creations, one after another, grew more original than the next.

In time, my efforts guided me into works that exceeded hundreds of pages, each becoming more devastating than the last to give up and start a new project. But then an idea came along. I remember the exact moment as clearly as I did my introduction to ‘A-T’. I sat in my bedroom, and I told myself how dire it was to come up with some sort of idea that would be my next aspiration. And then one came. I immediately set out to plot the entire thing. And then I wrote for months. After those months had passed, I realized that the original plan that I had been struck with had undergone drastic changes—but that was perfectly fine. The original idea had been but clay, and I now was creating the sculpture.

That project in specific is more important than any of the others I had previously began, for it was the first piece of work that I had ever carried from beginning to end. That meant something to me. That proved something to me—it proved that not only did I have the passion to write, but I also had the drive. I had finished something. I had written the first page, and I had continued until I had written the last. But I continued to grow older, and with that aging, my writing continued to advance. I looked back onto that finished novel, and did not feel that I had achieved what I had set out to do. I felt as though I was still reaching for something, despite the fact that I had finished it. My hands were still outstretched. And so I returned to an old quote that I had formerly never understood. I have no idea who said it. I don’t even remember where I had first heard it, but the quote reads, “every writer needs to write their first novel, and then throw it in the trash”. I understand it now—now that I had actually written my first novel, and was questioning it. I did not throw it in the trash. The storyline I had created was too important—too important to me still, and so I refined it, and set off again to rewrite the entire thing.

And that is the project I currently am devoted to. And for the first time, I feel like I’m doing more than just reaching for something, but grabbing it, because I know, as a writer, not only what I want to write, but what I want to tell my readers beyond the themes of my novels and beyond their messages—I want to show them something; I want to make the world analyze things they think of everyday, and I want to make the world, at the same time, analyze things they’ve never thought of at all.

Some may consider me naïve for being optimistic. But I believe that in order to be a great writer, you have to have the capability to one day think you’re the greatest thing to ever set pen to paper, and, the next day, be able to think you’re the worst; that—and knowing the importance of reaching for something.

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