Why I write, part one.
My exercise book comes back with ‘see me’ written in it. But it’s ok. This time there are lots of ticks in red pen and an ‘excellent’ at the end.
The teacher wants to tell me that I’ve written a really good story. Crucially, I already know it is a good story. When she asked me if this is all my own work, I am able to lie convincingly since I am convinced . I am able to lie convincingly because although I know that my story has been heavily ‘based’ on the Puffin book I’ve read and loved, I know the story is still mine. I have inhabited the story, and this, and my subversion and adoption of it, makes it all the more mine . I’m ten years old and I’ve been rushed along in the writing of it. I’ve felt older than I am, in control, and though I don’t know how to describe this feeling, I have been simultaneously lost and found. My teacher asks me to read my story aloud to the class. She records my reading on a cassette tape. She has overlooked my undulating pencilled handwriting, the phonetic spelling, the doubtful provenance, the backwards d’s and b’s. Thank you, Mrs Goodman.
Why I write, part two.
Almost forty years have passed. I’m typing this at speed, crouched over the keyboard, shouting downstairs to my son to turn the telly off, help himself to cereal if he’s still hungry after the tea I’ve made for us. I’ve been driven to this keyboard. The washing up is still to be done, tomorrows sandwiches are yet to be made. The desire to communicate has surfaced despite the fact that my wrists and forearms, shoulders and back, are sending messages of pain that I suspect are familiar to many writers, some of whom may not even out of their thirties. The pains are related to poor posture, repetitive strain, possibly carpel tunnel. I wake up with pain. It fluctuates. It is self inflicted. When I’m in a mood to communicate, as I am now, the pain is a chronic irrelevance. It shoots up my arms to let me know I am transgressing some limit; that late night stint at the keyboard or those days of intensive writing, unproductive, transcendent or somewhere in-between, have extracted a price.
I am writing this to post on the internet, that incredible interface between us which allows me to publish what I am writing almost as soon as I have thought it and also allows you to respond if you so wish. For this reason I feel the need to add that I don’t need advice about desk ergonomics, anti-inflammatory drugs, Pilates, the benefits of core strength exercise or swimming. I know. I should look after myself. I know this in the same way a smoker knows that he or she should not smoke. Thank you for your concern, if, indeed, you are concerned. And if you are suffering as I am, then please, see a doctor and think about your writing posture.
But my point is this. Despite each key-strike causing pain, despite the fact I will receive no financial gain from this piece, I’m still writing it and what I want to know is, why?
Why I write, part three
It is 1980. I am going to a party. Yellow socks are in. People are snogging all-over the front room of someone’s house. The girl whose parents own the house are out. Her name is Susannah or Jane and I don’t really know her or how I got invited. I meet a girl. We start going out. She is impressed when I give her some poems I’ve typed. Need I say more?
Why I write, part four
It is nearly two o’clock in the morning. I think this poem is finished. If I were in a frame of mind for analysis, I might find I have explained something of my own life to myself. I will hopefully have explained it in a way which might reflect someone else’s life. For now, in this moment, I have transformed the world. My past has collided with my present in mid-air and there has been a miraculous controlled landing. I am tired but elated. For now.
Roy, thank you for writing. I’ve just read your poem in Magma 61 (yes, I’ve only got as far as page 16!) and I love it, especially the last two lines. It reflects something of my life. I wonder if it’s about your father. Anyway, thank you for what you do – and do take care! (“If I’d known I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.”)
Thank you! What a lovely thing to say. Yes, the poem is about my dad who lived in London during the Blitz.