Thursday, 3 June 2010

the problem with writing. episode 2

so even reading has a downside. it reminds me of the shadowy 'writer', an elusive figure forever scribbling away just out of eyeshot. purposeful, driven, indefatigible.

this image of the genius author (the 'intellectual' personified) constantly torments me, mocking my pitiful, irrelevant attempts to set down my own meagre thoughts on the passing of the 20th century and the forging of the 21st. as something of an obsessive reader, whose lifes small memories can be best conjured up or recalled by the books she was reading at the time and an amateur historian and erstwhile classicist, both my business and pleasure has always had books and their writers at its heart. writers loom large in my world and enjoy a privileged, somewhat hushed, awed status for me.

so i am forever returning to one eternal truth. to the idea that writing is somehow an innate or effortless practice, at least to actual, proper writers. that it is the natural preserve of the thinker, the intellectual, and best left to them.

and it cannot be learnt, cannot be forced but rather, is a need, an urge, a compulsion. that when all else has failed the author, the novelist, the commentator or poet in their paltry life, at least there is the act of writing, of setting it all down on a page and with it some personal meaning and self affirmation. a defiant two fingers to an indifferent world, a mark making that says i was here, i was real – i write therefore i am.

a writer is self evidently identified by the act of writing. it’s what a writer IS, is what defines them - its in their blood. in interviews, memoirs and biographies its always the same; clues scattered everywhere as to this one eternal truth - the pure unadulterated instinct to write. writers are simply always writing, always scribbling away, getting an idea down on paper to turn into something poetic, brutal, incisive, timeless. even as a child it seems any proper writer always knew they were a writer and spent their infancy constructing tales, telling stories to their teddies and entering writing competitions whilst barely out of nappies....beguiling and intimidating, deconstruct the life of any writer and its invariably there. the writing gene.

i was never like this. i will never be like this. i spent my childhood eating up the words of others, not creating them for you to eagerly devour at some future time. i didnt entertain my teddies or the family pet with tales of my own devising. i read instead. stripped moston library bare by the time i was ten - it was a small library i confess. worried the neighbours with my peculiar predilection for wandering through the streets armed with a tower of books and reading them whilst crossing the road or tucked up alone in some corner of the vast wastelands around my home. but never, not ever, did i attempt to emulate one. never had the urge. there was simply no need when so many literary giants were freely providing me with so much knowledge, pleasure and friendship.

so what exactly makes a non-writer attempt to write? and how does one proceed, learn the rules, practice the craft and perhaps improve or find a valid voice and not feel foolish in daring to inadvertently aspire to the pantheon of gods just described? join the fray so to speak.

where did this emerge from so late in life - and what on earth is the point? this is the million dollar question. far from identifying an urge or complusion to write, ive identified the opposite - a dread of writing, a fear of it. my instinct is if anything NOT to write. yet a visceral swell of self loathing and physical sickness begins to surge up if i havent tried to make sense of something forming in the corner of my brain by writing it down somewhere.

then it proceeds to claw away at me and make me nauseous. i avoid it, wrestle with it, research it and read about it, dive off into interesting culverts and cul de sacs, cry about it and sometimes finally commit something of it to paper. then i feel a surge of joy, merely i suspect that this self abusive cycle is spent - a surge of relief is more like it, of freedom and levity.

until the whole damn process starts all over again.

1 comment:

davidada said...

This sounds uncannily familiar!