I normally don't write about my personal life; rather, I choose to write about the fantastical adventures of cinema's greatest heroes or about #Disney's latest smash hit or about the latest crazy fan theory that might just be true. But the time has come for me to write about why I write. More specifically, now is the time to write about my journey from producing something every couple months to writing multiple articles a week.
You've all heard the phrase "It didn't just happen overnight," but in my case, it really did. I could write a whole autobiography detailing everything that occurred in my life to lead me to where I am now, but instead, I will tell the story of how a life-changing event put me on the path to getting paid to write for a major online publication.
This isn't a tell-all in which I spill every gory detail of what happened, but here are the basics: It was a hot, summer day in July 2015. My summer vacation was at its peak and I was looking forward to my final year of high school and the future that came after. Had you asked me at that time what I planned to do with the rest of my summer or what I thought senior year had in store for me, the answer you would have received turned out to be very different than how it actually unfolded. What could have possibly happened to change my life that much? The answer is simple, really: I lost the ability to walk.
On July 10th, 2015 I suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury and at the time I had no control or feeling from the waist down. I had never been so scared in my life. There's no way to describe that feeling. No words to describe what it was like to know I had legs, to know they were there, but have absolutely no way of moving them. No way of knowing if I'd ever be able to walk again.
I spent several days in the hospital being poked and prodded to see if any sensation was coming back, if any sense of motor control was present. Luckily for me, the injury was incomplete, meaning I regained feeling and control of my left leg in a rather short amount of time, but my other leg wasn't so lucky. After several days, the doctors couldn't do anything else and sent me home with one working leg. The sense of helplessness, of despair, of just being scared, is not something I would wish for anyone else to go through.
Worst of all, I had no way of coping. I was a musician, played the piano and the saxophone, but even those I couldn't do in my current state- I was bedridden for weeks after my injury, only able to drag myself on crutches. So I turned to something else, a small hobby of mine I had never really cultivated before: writing.
My First Steps With Movie Pilot
I had started writing for Movie Pilot way back in August of 2014, but in the year between my first article and my injury I had only written nine articles (four of which were within the first week) so I was anything but a regular writer.
That changed, however, when I learned of a new program that was starting up called "Movie Pilot University" - a five-week writing program that would hone my writing skills. I absolutely adored writing. I'd written and produced plays, I'd had my poetry published, and I enjoyed writing short stories. Writing for the web wasn't something I was too familiar with, but there were few things I was actually able to do in the weeks following my injury: watch television, play video games, and type. So I decided I would take the leap (metaphorically, of course) and join the writing program just to see where it led.
Let me tell you: It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, because writing for Movie Pilot helped me get through that really difficult time in my life. In those five weeks, I wrote a total of 32 articles (30 for the program, two for contests) and as my writing skills got stronger by the day, my body started getting (slightly) better as well. In fact, my most successful article was also the one closest to my heart: 8 Disabled Superheroes That Inspire Us.
Yet, you'll notice, not once did I mention my own disability, because I still wasn't ready to admit that was what had come from the injury. My writing skills were progressing much faster than I was healing, but there was a direct correlation between my progress as a writer and my emotional health. By the end of the program, I was more confident, not only as a writer, but in accepting my "new" body. I had progressed from dragging my right leg along on crutches to almost walking with a cane. I still had immense difficulty and my leg was incredibly stiff, but I was learning to walk again and that was a good sign.
Overcoming Obstacles Of All Sorts
As summer came to an end, I had successfully finished MPU and was going back to school. I was incredibly nervous about what people would say when they saw me walking down the hallways with a cane in hand, wobbling awkwardly from class to class, but I now had a cool secret weapon in my back pocket: I wrote for an amazing entertainment website and (at the time) had a couple hundred thousand reads! Adjusting to school was hard, but I had a great support system with some of the best teachers and peers a person could dream of.
I was feeling better emotionally, and the intense physical therapy was definitely helping. I continued writing quite often and before too long I was invited to my very first press screening! Yet, as exciting as it was to be able to see a movie before its release, it also posed its own sort of problems: Here I was, a (barely) 18-year-old kid with a cane attending a professional press screening for the very first time. It was exciting yet daunting; questions raced through my mind: How will people look at me? Will they ask about my injury? Will they ask about my age? What kind of credentials do you bring to a thing like this?
In the end, everything went really well and the movie was a blast. What started as a small hobby just to pass the time had turned from a coping mechanism into a healing one. The rewarding feeling of doing something I loved and being recognized for it was truly astounding.
A Huge Stride Forward
Going into early 2016 my life was completely different than I would have ever imagined. I was walking with a cane, I was writing for Movie Pilot, I was preparing for my senior recital (I attended a performing arts high school and I wrote my own senior solo for saxophone), and I was getting ready to go to college. That last part is the most important: What new challenges was college going to throw at me?
In my personal life, things were just getting better. I had regained feeling in most of my lower limbs (still don't have feeling in my right foot), walking was a lot easier (still need a cane, however), and I had finished my PT. I was ready for the challenges of college having decided on a small school in Florida, a school I'd be attending on a generous scholarship from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation in recognition of my leadership, service, and perseverance.
On the writing side of my life, everything was also evolving. I was accepted into Movie Pilot's Verified Creators program (which meant I was now getting paid to do what I love!) and I had continued to build relationships with some amazing people on the staff, each of whom helped me at different parts of my path (There are far too many to name, but Dana, Mike, Julian, Andrew, and more, if any of you happen to read this, you have my deepest gratitude).
Another amazing opportunity soon came my way: the chance to attend Wizard World Comic Con as press. Prior to the actual convention, Wizard World held an outing at a local sports bar and invited us to interview some of the stars. I got to speak to Jason David Frank (Power Rangers) and Bob Gale (Back To The Future creator), both of whom were extraordinary individuals.
When I started out writing for Movie Pilot, I never knew how much it would shape me and how much writing would help me through difficult times. There are opportunities I've had and milestones I've reached that I never thought possible. For me, writing was a source of validation: I realized I could still be successful at doing things I loved even if my body wasn't working the way it used to.
So Where Am I Today?
I'm in college studying Biochemistry (with minors in Biology and English Professional Writing); I'm working with a wonderful editor (Shout-out to Alisha! Don't think I forgot about you) and our excellent team of Rogues in the Movie Pilot/Creators Media Masterclass Program, and I've come to terms with the fact I have a disability.
Knowing the reasons behind why I write, I can't help but wonder if others have similar motivations. My writing journey has been an incredible one, one that is nowhere near its end. It's what I love to do and it's what I'll continue to do, but it means more than that to me now. Writing put me on a path that enabled me to say one very important thing: I'm a cripple and that's okay.
Read the personal stories of some of my fellow writing Rogues here:
- How Carrie Fisher Helped Me Realize I Needed Professional Help
- For Every Broken Bastard Like Me (That's All Of Us) 'BoJack Horseman' Is The Best Thing On TV
- When Life Is Like The Movies: How Hollywood Deals With Alzheimer's And Old Age In Film
- It's Never Been A Scarier Time For A Horror Movie Lover With Christian Beliefs