Ever since I can remember the need to write has been as necessary as the need to breathe. As a troubled teen I’d view the world around me through prose, a running commentary of my life and the many messes I found myself in streaming through my head in a dissociative manner of observation which psychologists with career ambitions would have given their eyeteeth to discover and study on their couches.
The practicalities of everyday life created diversions and made me arm myself with skills which, at times, overshadowed the need, but never really made it go away. Whenever I could I would get down ideas, stories, snippets of narratives, dialogues, descriptions and character situations. I travelled, over twenty years across three continents and four countries, trailing in my wake notes, notebooks, ticket stubs hastily scrawled over, chocolate bar wrappers with an idea, audio tapes with thoughts and observations, booklets full of collected sayings, personal organizers filled with hastily typed memos to self.
My output was as prodigious as it was wasteful. Collections of poetry vanished somewhere between Greece and Australia, Greece and Britain and then Greece again decimated my book collection and reams of notes and story ideas vanished into the thin ether of moving countries. My writer’s brain seemed intent to simply empty itself, leave its mark in a way not entirely dissimilar to that of a fly leaving footprints across the pristine surface of a bowl of yoghurt.
On the way my other skills developed in tandem. I learnt to manage people, run companies, set up processes, create online campaigns, manage company profiles, administer entire corporate policies and all the while, in the background the scribe watched, saw, noted, silently recording. Angry at myself for not writing more I stopped scribbling, not because I was blocked but because I was not productive. It’s not the same as not writing. In the meantime I built up an impressive volume of work across newspapers and magazines, non-fiction books and booklets (some mine and some written for others), websites and magazines.
That writing was not the same but it worked. It made living feasible.
I am now writing again, stealing time from sleep to get down what I want to get down. We live in a time where there is a perception that reading is under attack. Fewer books published, fewer people buying books, maybe even fewer people writing.
I don’t buy any of this for an instant. The web has made more of us read more than ever. We just don’t read paper. We have each become more literate, more knowledgeable and more able to understand the written word than at any other time in our history. For me the written word has a magic beyond its etching on whatever medium. It is code which unlocks part of our mind and transports us (depending upon what you are reading) to either a more knowledgeable plain or a magical world. It is the means through which our civilization preserves the past so we have collective memories greater than an amoeba’s. The adventure, far from over, has only just began. How far it goes depends upon writers .. and readers.