Writing is the only thing that ever made sense to me. Ever. You see, writing is the only thing I ever wanted to do. I learned to read and write when I was three. I wrote my first story at four. At six, I was making my own fairy tales, with kings, and queens and dragons. You always need to have a dragon in your story, otherwise you haven’t done much.
When I was about ten, I wrote a story about a boy running through rumbles of a war-devastated town, with bombs and bullets flying around him. It was a short story, and by the end of the story you’ve learned that the boy was dead, or dying all along — and that running part were just his last living thoughts. I told you, you need to have some kind of dragons in your story. And so, I showed that story to my drama teacher and she made me read it to the whole group. I was ashamed and afraid — I didn’t want an audience. In my head, you just need to write a good story, that’s it. No readers, no feedback, just a story.
And I kept writing, to myself mostly. I was my only reader, the only loyal and faithful audience. I wrote everywhere. On the backs of my school notebooks, mostly. On books. On store receipts. Everywhere. But not to anyone. No-one ever saw my poems or stories. In my head, I wasn’t a writer. I just couldn’t help myself — I needed to write those images and sentences that kept popping into my head completely unannounced. They demanded to be written. They were loud, and couldn’t keep still — until I wrote them. For a long time, really — for years — I kept a folder with all those torn-out papers in it. And one day, very angry at myself, at some story that I couldn’t quite get a hold of, I threw them away.
I’m 38 now. I was 30 when I came up with an idea for a novel. I remember the actual day the story popped into my head. It was the beginning of spring, I was sitting in a cafe with a friend, and I could see all my characters very much alive in my head. I didn’t know their names, but I had a clear outline of a story. I wrote a first chapter and then almost threw everything away. Maybe I would have thrown it all away, except I had it all in e-mails sent to friends, and 5 years later, broken and in the low point in life, I started writing again. It took me less than a month to finish my novel. I couldn’t stop writing, I just had to tell that story the way it played out in my head. And for that whole month, I didn’t eat, or sleep, or function as a normal human being. And when my publisher called and said that we had a release date, I started crying. And I couldn’t stop crying for hours. It was a cold November afternoon when he called. Why was I crying? Because I was happy, and because I never thought that day would come. Ever. Because part of me still ran away from readers, from everyone who could believe in me. And because I spent the better part of my life running away from myself.
I knew the theme for my next book right away. And yet. I couldn’t begin to write it. Sometimes I stared at a blank computer screen, angry and frustrated. Part of me believed — part of me still does — that the first novel, the one that people actually read and liked, was a lucky mistake. Beginners luck. Something that couldn’t be repeated. And yet. I couldn’t let it go.
When I write, I write from some dark part of myself. I write from sadness, from anxiety, from fear, from sorrow. I write about isolation, about loneliness, about hurt. I write about what it means to have a real human connection. I write about recognition. I write about things that keep me up at night, about everything that emerges from fear and that deep-rooted sadness I carry around. Remember that dragons from beginning? They are still alive and well, thank you. And they are still lurking in the shadows.
But most of all, I write to be seen. I know no other way to express myself. I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m not particularly interesting. I have no formal education — stories are the only thing I know, the only thing that is mine, and mine alone. Everything is a story. Every single day is a story. I write in my head, while driving to work and listening to mindless babble on the radio. I write while drinking my coffee every morning. I write constantly, I collect stories like some people collect stamps. That is the only thing that makes sense to me. That is the only thing that keeps darkness at bay.
Sometimes, though, the darkness wins.