How writing shapes life and life shapes writing.
When I was in high school I let my lack of physical stature (5' 9", 125 at graduation) affect my athletic confidence, which subsequently altered my general outlook on life. Vowing to be a different person in college, I dropped an f from Jeff and pushed myself to improve. I made lots of foolish decisions back then, but I definitely found confidence—perhaps even had too much at times. Today, I still believe mind, spirit, and body can not only compliment each other but often form a synergistic relationship. I've kept lifting weights (until I'm about 5'10, 200), kept learning/sharing, and kept seeking.
The recovered f in my pen name is not symbolic of a return to my former self but rather an admission that none of this comes from me alone. Culturally diverse peoples that have embraced me, brilliant minds that have tolerated my curious ignorance, and The Advocate (or Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Truth—for the Light comes in many forms) all contribute to the product that is Jeff Stone.
Today I write because I must. I write for the same reasons I unlock my secured house and check my coffee maker for the third time to see that it really is off. By putting my amazing experiences, both actual and imagined, on paper I see that they are real and I can share them with others. I write for some of the same reasons I stepped into countless classrooms and poured myself into lessons not only physically, mentally, and spiritually by writing quickly yet unusually neatly (or so I was often told) while sometimes demonstrating through body language, by paying attention to detail, by pushing my brain to find the optimal analogy, by listening actively after asking appropriately provocative questions, by doing whatever it took within what was allowed to see that light of recognition flicker—a light that told me someone just realized her potential was so much higher than she ever imagined or even dreamed.
I write because the process is the restoration of a broken person. For me, writing is the resumption of a process abandoned for the sake of self-preservation. I suppose I have loved words since my grandmother, who was a proactively thinking librarian, put old catalogs in front of me to do with as I pleased. I love the patterns, symbolism, potential, sibilance, alliteration, consonance… I love how some words are born out of a broad concept to eventually serve a narrow purpose while others are born inconspicuously to grow into giants. Words are the rivers, roadways, and rockets on which carefully constructed thoughts are propelled into transformative action.
Intermittently for eight years I isolated myself from the people and things I love—at one point determined to become "harder than life" by pushing myself as far as I could in the weight room after traversing some serious depression I refused to admit. Among my relationships, I held complex word relationships in particular as far way as possible because they reminded me of where I'd been and took me to places I wasn't prepared to go. I abandoned two-thirds of a novel and stopped my pursuit of reading the novels that had won major awards because too many of them were emotionally provocative. Eight years is a long time, too long. But after finally undergoing some painful introspection and haltingly making some shameful admissions, I emerged from the wilderness a much stronger person. I even finished that novel I never expected to see again! You can, too.