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a writer's plight
keep on, keepin' on
by heather m. millen

It began in grade school. Once I learned how to form words with those magical letters all the way down to "Hellamenopee," I began writing it down. There were short ditties, my stint with haiku, and a play or two, which I so graciously bestowed upon the neighborhood children. “Listen here, Jason, you are the good luck fairy and you’re gonna wear this tutu for MY show or I’m gonna shove my foot up your…”

Ahh, the venerable passion of a struggling young artist. Yes, I vividly remember my first (and unfortunately last) novel writing experience…

"Runaway," A deep entrancing piece about a girl torn by the hardships of being eleven breaking free from the torments of suburban life into the great wide open to discover her innerself.

It was confiscated by my 4th grade teacher, who felt self-expression had no right inventing itself during his geography lesson. Sadly, I bet it still lingers under piles of dust in his filing cabinet somewhere between Denny Pittman's set of wind-up clattering teeth and the greatest SuperBall collection ever assembled.

Luckily though, I was resilient. Years to follow would render a few one-acts and a killer sonnet. Seriously, it was about a killer; none of those bleeding heart bard sonnets for me. My nazi of an eighth grade teacher actually took points off for its dark "unsonnet-like" nature.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of that era, however, was all the teen angst poetry a pubescent heart could conceive. The period cultivated volumes upon volumes of deep meaningful work.

In my heart, I know there's love
Flying above the highest dove…

Well that was all the easy part. When every little thing that happened was a means of inspiration, a deep truth waiting to be revealed, a message the world needed to hear, a pain whose scars I had to bear!

Also featured next week, Heather Marie Millen's private diary fully equipped with a heart-shaped clasp and matching secret key. Unlock the secrets of a not-so-troubled youth. "Why did Scott take Mary to the 8th grade dance? I thought he liked me! Janie told me that Kim told her that she overheard him saying that in gym class. Oh, the heartache. Dear Diary, I may never know true love again..."

But you start to grow up. Heck, you get a driver's license. And it begins to get harder to find that time. I’ve been thinking for months what my next column could be about. What really drives my spirits, touches my soul. Have I no passion anymore?

Well I do have quite a passion for chocolate-chip mint ice cream. But I surely can’t fill a whole page on that. Ooooh, but I could always add sprinkles...

I went to college for Communications. Literature seemed too whimsical and even Journalism had the dreamy artist aura. I worked my butt off putting myself through college and, beautiful dreamer or not, I wanted a career to show for it. So I ended up concentrating in Public Relations. Because they said you had to like to write. "Like to write?" I thought, "First and foremost, I am a writ-ER!"

To this day, I stake that claim. But the planets are ruled and the tides are turned here in the free world by "Corporate America." Swapping stocks on his cell phone in his finest Armani suit as he keys in his next "power lunch" on his PalmPilot, "The Man" employs us. I recently started a new job. Oh, I write... about such enthralling topics as land entitlements and property development.

Mall officials today announced that Acme, Inc., will join the lineup of more than 100 specialty stores...BLAH, BLAH, who gives a crap, BLAH... featuring products that improve their time in a fun, informative and no-pressure shopping environment.

Don't get me wrong. I like my job (ie, I like wearing cute little professional ensembles, or moreover affording them). But that was a hard decision for me to make. There is a fine line to distinguish between "selling out" and being able to pay rent.

So I'll keep my eyes to the sky (some teen writing styles just refuse to die). My father always told me, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." How about wittier? More interesting? Marketable?

Well until that glimmer of hope, there’s always pro-bono. Life is a story you are constantly creating. Write it down. Whether it be on your lunch break, or in the wee hours when you know you should be sleeping (or drunk), write it all down. I’m determined to have a great read. Because if nothing else, at least my friends and family can laugh their ass off at my journal when I reach

"The End."


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


sugarplum dream
an experiment
by heather m. millen
topic: writing
published: 12.26.03

the heathers
four shades of me
by heather m. millen
topic: writing
published: 6.26.06


matt morin
7.19.02 @ 12:54p

Why are journals inherently ultra-dramatic? When I first moved to SF and had about 4 months without a job I kept a journal. And if I go back and reread it, my god, it's ridiculous. (Although there are a few good passages here and there.)

jael mchenry
7.19.02 @ 3:23p

Mine were really bad in grade school. "I've thought about it really hard and realized -- I love him." Fourth grade.

But yes, now, they're drier. It's funny, though, because the things I write are all in the wrong proportion compared to my actual life. A couple years ago I'd write 5 pages on one guy or another and then half a page on my search for a job. Job = more important. Especially upon reflection.

adam kraemer
7.19.02 @ 3:27p

But, one imagines, somewhat less interesting.

roger striffler
7.19.02 @ 3:31p

I think journal topics are disproportionate to our actual lives because we tend to treat them as an outlet for all of the things we don't say in our actual lives - all the things we weren't able to find an outlet for. We deal with the "important" stuff out in the open, and everything else in the journals.

heather millen
7.19.02 @ 4:53p

When I began writing a journal again in college, I vowed to myself that I would not write about guys and relationships, something so trivial in the grand scheme of life!

Righhhttt.... they are now organized alphabetically by the name of whoever was the drama of that particular period.

tracey kelley
7.19.02 @ 8:13p

Oh, my journal-something I usually write in the first thing after I wake up-is full of black ooze that I try to purge out of my system to begin the day. And really weird dreams.

sarah ficke
7.19.02 @ 8:27p

Reading my junior high journals now makes me blush, with an extra cringe thrown in every time I see the word "love".

I haven't given up journal-keeping, though. The one I kept for the 4 months I spent in London makes me laugh every time I pick it up because I filled it with the daily details that otherwise would have been forgotten (the bum who was talking to God, the day I spent frantically searching for a bottle of Kahlua...), and then the notes to the reader, such as "fuck this, I'm going to bed and I'll finish the story in the morning?"

I agree with Roger that journals are dramatic because they are the only place you can be dramatic about your life and all of its little details without risking criticism.


juli mccarthy
7.20.02 @ 1:32a

Hell, I've been making a living writing for two years now - I write clever descriptions for my eBay auctions.

Yeah, laugh, but it's been paying the bills.

roger striffler
7.22.02 @ 9:57a

I think it also depends on why you're writing in your journal...

When I travel, I like to keep a journal of the experience, and when I return I usually type it up and send it to my travelling companions. Those are a riot to read years later and re-live the experience.

Then there's the theory that you should just spend an hour a day writing pretty much free-form stream of conciousness stuff. This is supposed to be really good for just honing your writing skills in general and for getting ideas onto paper. Kind of like the theory of photography, e.g., take enough pictures and one or two are bound to be good. It's good to look back through these to find little those little hidden gems that can spark a whole new story or column.

And then there's the "dear diary", secret confidante kind of journal. Those can be, well... scary.


adam kraemer
7.22.02 @ 11:10a

You mean "why you're writing"? Freud much?

roger striffler
7.22.02 @ 12:15p

LOL...ok, it was early. Give me a break. Ah, edit capability...

adam kraemer
7.22.02 @ 12:39p

True, but now my post doesn't mean anything.

jael mchenry
7.22.02 @ 1:01p

A joke that makes itself.

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