On Writing

“I’m a salami writer. I try to write good salami, but salami is salami. You can’t sell it as caviar.”

Stephen King

*

The first time I ever wrote anything, I was eight.

The teacher had given us this big deal, read-in-front-of-the-class assignment, a page long composition about spring. I was terrified. The other kids had all come up with these pretty-word descriptions of snow melting and fields turning green in the sun, while I’d made up this crazy story about a snowdrop being picked and torn away from his family by a florist’s apprentice, and his adventures across town as he tries to escape and make his way back to the woods.

She’d fail me, I knew it. She’d grab me by the shoulder like you grab a pot off the hob, she’d lead me to the Principal’s office and sit me down in one of those chairs where your feet dangle half a meter above the floor, then they’d both make me listen to everything that was wrong about me. It would take hours. I wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner, of course. Mother and Father would find out, then the neighbours, the bus driver, people in the streets. They’d point their fingers at me, whispering bad whispers behind my back.

They published my snowdrop adventure in the local paper on Mother’s Day. Father gave me his fountain pen, the red one with the gold plated tip. This was something I could do, I figured. Writing. It was something. I mean sure, it wasn’t like doing six cartwheels in a row or climbing to the top of the monkey bars with your eyes closed, but it was something.

*

I was thirteen when I entered the Regional Romanian Literature competition. Mother walked me to the venue, this strange school with smaller windows and narrower, darker corridors than what I was used to. As we were waiting outside the entrance, a bunch of kids and grownups thrown unacceptably close together in what could only have been a very cruel game, Mother leaned to whisper something into my ear.

Don’t let me down.

The title said composition on the topic of your choice, and I blinked. I’d never known so much freedom.

I chose to describe the moment I knew I was no longer a child. Three hours later, I walked out of the stuffy classroom and the windowless little school, more exhausted than I’d ever felt in my life. It was tough, this writing about yourself business.

It had snowed throughout the exam and now the snow reached up to my knees, which almost never happened in our town anymore. I made my way home on my own, breathing in the cold and the snowflakes, feeling like a cheat. Who did I think I was kidding? I was still very much a child, my essay had been nothing but a shameless lie. A no-longer-a-child person would not feel so intimidated by their own mother, nor would they find so much joy in leaping through the snow.

I won first prize but I never forgot nor forgave myself the lie, and I wasn’t too keen on writing competitions from then onwards. Plus, High School was starting. The plan was to be good at High School, to be really, six-cartwheels-in-a-row good at High School, and writing lies upon lies no one cared about wasn’t going to help me achieve it.

*

On the eve of our graduation, my closest friend C was going through a really difficult patch. I’d been thinking about this for a while, how maybe I really wasn’t built to be someone’s friend, because I didn’t always know what or when to say to make the pain go away. When faced with other people’s tragedies, I’d just sit there, staring blankly, waiting for them to somehow fill the silence, to talk or cry themselves out of it. I’d think about C countless times a day, I’d go to sleep with him on my mind, I’d come up with a million different plans to fix all his problems and then, when we were finally together, I was mute and helpless and drowning in guilt.

So one night I wrote him a story. In truly characteristic, crazy fashion, I wrote him an entire notebook of a story, more than a hundred pages of my messy handwriting by now more used to handling differential calculus and organic chemistry reactions than endless made up histories. It wasn’t even about him, or at least something to entertain him and take his mind off things, but more the story of my life since I’d met him. I would always be a self centred writer, it seemed.

I remember finishing, shutting the notebook closed, scribbling “a gift is a gift” on the front cover, blowing it dry, and throwing it into my backpack to give it to C the next day. I wish I knew why the “gift” thing, but it’s been almost 11 years since, and though you’d think we never really forget the most important things in our lives, it’s not always true.

*

I’m doing the Blogging 201 Daily Assignments these days. I must say, blogging events aren’t the kind of stuff I normally get involved in (if one should even generalize like this after only eight months of on and off blogging business), but I’ve entered this particular one hoping it will be the impulse I need to come up with more and better writing. It’s supposed to teach me how to bring relevant content to my readers and grow my online presence, and I must admit these are intimidating sounding things that I’ve not given any thought whatsoever to since I started this writing for strangers adventure.

So anyway. Today’s assignment is meant to have us think about why we write, what we want to achieve through it, and what we can do to make it better.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, and I wish I had an absolutely extraordinary answer to why I write and how I plan to develop this space. But as I was cracking my brains to come up with something super duper inspiring, all I could think about was this Antonio Machado quote I recently came across on someone’s Facebook page. I know, until not long ago I used to be at least as outraged as you are now that I’m apparently getting all of my daily inspiration off of people’s Facebook walls, but I have since made my peace with it.

Anyway, I digress. Machado wrote: Wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. – and I think it very much applies to how I feel about this blog and writing on it. 

I write for the writing. I have no idea where it will take me, or if there’s even a destination in sight. It’s not particularly funny, informative, insightful, hell, it’s nothing but salami writing, really. But it’s something, it really is something, isn’t it?

4 thoughts on “On Writing

  1. Pingback: Top of the Pile #15: Saturday & #16: The Book of Disquiet | London Geek

  2. Pingback: Where the Wild Things Are | London Geek

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