When I was 12, after my parent’s divorce, my family moved into a new home in a small Idaho town. The landscaped yard in the front had a few bushes and trees and one large black rock that stood up from the ground, with soft edges pointing toward the sky. The day we went to look at the house, I remember sitting my small frame down in front of that rock, nestling into the ground, and leaning my back against it. Because I faced the house, I realized that no one would from the road behind me would be able to see me.
This will be my secret writing place, I thought.
Somehow the rock suited me better than some of the other places I had ferreted out, like the big empty pond in the back yard (it had been dug out but never filled) or the alcove under the stairs (which was soon filled to the brim with food storage boxes). No, the rock would do perfectly. I would be hidden in plain sight, out in nature, yet still connected to my family and home.
And so I had opened a notebook and began jotting down story ideas, all fitting for my age at the time.
I wrote my own Choose Your Own Adventure in blue ink on loose-leaf. A daring set-up with Donatello using his bo-staff to face the evil Shredder. And then the reader would decide where to go next. “If you want Donatello to attack Shredder, turn to page 17. If you want Donatello to think before attacking, turn to page 28.” I carefully kept track of the story lines and was proud of my final result.
I plotted sequels to my favorite movies, thinking of where to take the fictional characters next. I created a serialized comic strip about mutant toucans that I showed my friends every week. I kept a journal, detailing my deepest thoughts and feelings, mostly about helping people and following God. I wrote poems. I wrote long Emails to my friends, then printed them out, saving them.
When I was 15, I wrote my own murder mystery dinner party, basing the characters off of the game Clue. My friends came over in formal wear, color-coordinated with their characters, and searched for weapons in the house to “kill” their assigned targets before they were first “killed”. Each had rich back stories of affairs, betrayal, treason, and revenge, and it was delicious.
By then, we no longer lived in the house with the rock out front. My writing shifted to computer screens, faster and more efficient, and my tones took on less creativity and more introspection, deeply delving into the corridors of myself to find what resided there.
Life has taken me through many twists and turns, and I have never stopped writing. I’ve written journal entries and poems, blogs and essays, fan fiction and thought-provoking historical analyses. I even wrote and published a graphic novel, the Mushroom Murders.
I’m 37 now, and I write more than ever. I only recently realized how much writing is a part of me, although it has been present in every part of my life. I wrote through high school, through my Mormon mission, through my years in college. I wrote through my years in the closet, through my marriage to Megan, and through the births of my children. And when, at 32, I came out of the closet, I wrote to heal my wounds and find myself.
I write now, present tense, for so many reasons. I write to give birth to the sagas in my brain. I write to share my observations. I write to inspire others and make them laugh. I write to quiet myself. I write because I itch until I write, and then I can relax and settle into myself for a few hours before the itch comes back, and because when I don’t write the itch just sits there itching.
I write about my children. I write about the human story, shared with hundreds of others in therapy sessions as a social worker. I write when someone inspires me, or makes me laugh, or makes me cry, or makes me angry, generally from a place of observation and sometimes from a place of participation. I write about history, my observations on the world as I learn. I write to share what I’m reading, always changing, generally biographies and generally chosen at random. I write to promote social justice. I write about being gay, and about being ex-Mormon, and about growing up Mormon. I write about living in Utah, and growing up in Missouri and Idaho, and I write about traveling and who and what I see when I travel. I write about kindness, and I write about cruelty. I write about camels, and slavery, and transgender rights, and murder, and dinosaur toys, and beers with friends, and the woman on the plane next to me.
I write in Snapshots, captured camera viewpoints from my eyes, each photo uniquely from the place that I dwell when the photo was taken, each with its own character and color and texture.
I write. And here I will write often. And I will share it with you. And if I can inspire you, or make you think, or haunt you, or leave you with a smile on your face, or elicit a laughing fit, well, then my writing has both helped me and left you with something to chew on.
And so, welcome, to Snapshots of Chad, my new not-so-secret writing place.