Writing About Writing.

28 Nov

  I try to write. I am not a famous author. I am merely an obscure blogger. I have never earned a penny from my written efforts. It’s just a need that grows inside me. The longer I go without putting pen to paper, the greater the need.

  An artist friend once explained to me that she didn’t produce pictures so she could sell them and earn a living. She didn’t create works of art just for her own amusement. She produced a piece because she had a need to express herself, and art was her chosen form of expression. It was as if something was living inside her that she felt compelled to share. In a way, creating a picture was like giving birth.

  I imagine there’s a little bit of that in my urge to write. I don’t claim to be a great wordsmith, but I still want to write things down and express myself through writing. I feel better if I can take whatever thoughts and feelings are swirling around inside me and bring them on to the outside, transposed on to a peice of paper. ( or a computer screen.)

  At the moment I cannot think of anything I want to write about. It’s been like this for days, but I still feel the urge to write. It makes me strangely restless, as if something is missing from my life. ( Actually I feel much the same if I haven’t got a book to read.) Everyday I hope the inspiration will come in order to dispel my restlessness.

  One problem is that I want whatever I write to be half decent, at least in my own eyes. This is not a consideration that holds up many people who indulge themselves on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Such sites produce veritable mountains of trivia, in my view. Thanks to the Internet we seem to live in an increasingly narcissistic society where countless thousands sound-off on everything from the Middle East crisis to whose going to triumph in X Factor. We also find out: what they’ve had for breakfast, how many drinks they had last night and what their plans are for the day. The main aim is not often to write something that is amusing or thought-provoking, but to be a self-publicist. There’s plenty of quantity on social media but not enough quality, in my opinion. I hold up my hands and admit that I indulge in some of this too. It’s like the online equivalent of being at a party and trying to impress the people one encounters. I must try to curb my egotism.

  In the end though, publishing soundbites is not enough for me, so that’s why I turned to blogging. My daughter Catherine, another writer, first suggested this to me. I need a longer, more flexible format in which to express my ideas and opinions. It’s as if I’ve put myself back into school and have instructed myself to write an essay. So I have to think about: spelling, punctuation and paragraphs, which is not a priority for texters, tweeters or status updaters. Blogging is still a bit self-obsessed I know, because it involves putting your thoughts and feelings out there into the world and expecting that others will be engaged. However, I believe that it’s a good, healthy thing to do because it allows me to: gather my thoughts, develop my arguments and hopefully engage others in a dialogue. I enjoy it. That’s why I have been so out-of-sorts recently — I could not think of anything stimulating to blog about. You might say that I have been suffering from a case of bloggers-block! Then I came up with the idea of writing about writing. As I see the words cascading on to the page, I get a good feeling. The restlessness and feeling of dissatisfaction have dissipated.

  It’s funny but I don’t always know what I’m going to write about when I sit down in front of the paper. I remember doing a creative writing experiment while visiting a friend in a remote corner of western Ireland. She gave herself, my then partner and I, 3 sheets of A4 each. We then descended into silence. The rule was that we weren’t allowed to speak until we had filled our pages with writing. At first it was difficult. We sat there staring at our empty sheets. But then the words came, at first in a trickle and then in a steady flow. We wrote about: travel, nature, friendship, ourselves, hopes and fears, the silence, the view from the farmhouse window, encounters with strangers, the elements. Afterwards we tried to create rather pretentious poetry by combining random snippets from each of our scribblings. That didn’t really work although it led to more than a few laughs once the wine began to flow. What the exercise did do however was to release thoughts and emotions that were previously locked up inside us. They were now out in the open ready to be shared. It was like a magic trick. We started with empty sheets of paper but ended up with a stimulating and entertaining discussion.

  As well as writing a blog I keep a diary. I’ve done it for much of my life, on and off. I make daily entries outlining what I do, how I feel about things and major events in the news. Sometimes it seems like a pointless task, largely recording mundane, everyday happenings. But , slowly and gradually, a picture of my life emerges out of the detail. If I stopped writing it I’m sure I would quickly feel restless and a little lost. Why I do it is not always clear to me. At times it feels like an unnecessary millstone around my neck. However, as I get older and more forgetful, I realize why diary writing is so useful. Half the time, I have trouble remembering what I did last week, never mind last month or last year. If I didn’t write down what occurs in my life and then just forget about it, then it would be as if it never happened. That in turn would make it seem as if I never existed. This would be especially true after I die. If one quickly forgets one’s own life, how quickly will one slip off other people’s radar once one has gone? I don’t like the idea of disappearing into a void even though I know that this is inevitable in the end. So by writing a blog and a diary, I suppose I am trying to create a sort of “legacy” for myself. I want to be remembered. It’s all very egotistical I know, but if I don’t do it, then I don’t think anyone else would bother. I am not a “celebrity”. No ghost writer is going to come along and write my biography for me. I feel that it’s up to me.

  A close relative sadly died at a premature age earlier this year. She wrote a blog about her illness and life which ended up being read and appreciated by thousands of people. She lives on in our memories, through photographs and film, but particularly through her blog. Writing was important to her. It was her great skill as she was a journalist by profession. It helped her to negotiate those difficult final months. It also helps her to live on.

  I am not a professional writer and I am not writing under dramatic or tragic circumstances. My stuff is more about everyday events and about what type of person I am. Much of it may be mundane to others but I find it a very theraputic thing to do. Writing helps me to feel whole. To misquote Descartes: ” I write, therefore I am.” One day fairly soon, I won’t be here anymore, but my blogs, memoirs and diaries will hopefully live on, at least until someone consigns them to the bin. I imagine a future family historian finding my writings, and as he/she reads them I will spring to life again. Hopefully my writing will help me to become more than a name and a date on a family tree, or a faded photograph in a forgotten album.

  Maybe I flatter myself too much. That’s the nature of personal writing. It tends to be self-centred. However, putting pen to paper gives meaning to my life, plugs the hole in my faulty memory and possibly will help me to live on into future generations. I admit it’s all a bit of an ego trip. Tony Blair’s not the only one who’s concerned about his legacy! At the very least, writing this piece has helped me pass a couple of thoughtful hours. It has enabled me to use my time in a constructive and meaningful way. Afterall, just a short time ago, I was sitting staring at a blank piece of paper!

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