By Kala Godin
I’ve found that writing tends to require a great deal of vulnerability.
But at the same time, strength is key. Vulnerability and strength; a lot of people seem to think that those 2 things cannot exist together. In my opinion, they’re wrong, or at least misinformed.
If my disability has taught me anything, it’s vulnerability. I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. It’s a muscle deteriorating disorder which means that I’m always going to get weaker. This also effects my respiratory system. I can do very little myself and so I rely heavily on the help of others. In this way, I’m vulnerable.
My passion for writing has taught me strength and stubbornness. Writing can feel very competitive; every aspiring author ultimately has the same goal, landing a publishing deal. Whether it’s being published in a newspaper, magazine, or an actual novel; we all want it. But it can be so incredibly hard to reach sometimes, and people always like to give you their opinion.
In high school, staff desperately wanted me to attend college and get a degree in psychology, which I still think is ridiculous. I create fantasy worlds and characters from thin air… are you positive that it’s a good idea for me to help others with their issues? I know they meant well, but at the same time they couldn’t understand that this is who I was. I create, and therefore I live many lives. But one time they asked, “you do realize that hundreds of writers never get published. What makes you think you’ll even get published?” It’s probably one of the worst things to tell a writer. But at the same time, how many people get a psychology degree each year? And then out of those people, how many get a job in that field? And again, out of those people who have jobs in that field, how many are severely physically disabled and able to choose if they are able to work that day? It can all depend on how much you are willing to try, and how much you love it. Writing is complete freedom for me.
My family has always been supportive of my writing. After high school I never had anyone question my future in writing. When the first rejection email lit up my phone screen, I nearly took it personally. And I think that it’s hard not to. A fellow writer made me realize that the rejection could have nothing to do with my ability as a writer or even the submission itself. Maybe it was my timing, or my piece just wasn’t the right fit, or maybe they had already accepted their quota. Sometimes they can only publish so many submissions. And maybe (probably,) I did need more practice. If we are always growing as people, then we as writers never stop growing as well. Let’s face it, I sent in the submission practically right after I graduated, I was excited and I wanted my writing career to start right then and there. But things don’t happen like that.
So I re-evaluated, and it turned out my writing was lacking depth. I mostly submitted poetry at the time, and poetry without depth is boring. That’s where vulnerability comes in. Writing is personal; when writing poetry or fiction you need to rehash memories and emotions, and then write them down in the most real way possible. But at the same time you want to be unique, without being cliché. I tried again, and again, and again. I submitted to contests, magazines, indie publishers, both new and more established. Any kind that didn’t require me to have previous publishing experience. Which is one of the most frustrating things about being an aspiring writer. But a part of me understands it. Publishing experience means that you’ve done this before and you know that it’s never easy.
Strength comes in next. Not physical strength but emotional, in the form of willpower. Or stubbornness, whatever you want to call it. Either way, this time the rejection letters didn’t derail me; they motivated me. It actually made me more determined, and I pushed myself even harder. When Fran Kimmel and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta asked me to write a short article for their youth writers’ week in March 2016, needless to say I was ecstatic. I jumped at the opportunity! That was the breakthrough I needed. It was my open door. It allowed me to feel like my hard work was finally paying off. The October following that, I was contacted by Franklin E. Wales, who is also a writer, and asked if I would participate in writing a multi-authored short story entitled Teeth. I did. It came out in May of this year and it features some amazing writers. It’s available on Amazon.
When it comes to writing with a disability, others always assume that I intend to write a memoir or something of similar sorts. It makes me laugh. I don’t personally think I will ever write one, not because I dislike them, but because I wouldn’t know how to go about it. I like articles, poetry, and short stories. They allow me to give only snapshots of a story. Whether it’s my own life story, or my characters. It allows me to still continue working on my passion, without keeping me too busy and then getting exhausted. This way my disability doesn’t keep me from doing what I love.
Kala Godin is a 20 year old woman living in Alberta, Canada. She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2, which is a muscle deteriorating disorder that confines her to a wheelchair. In addition to being a writer she is also an artist.