Note 24th September 2023: I am driving home from a wonderful event in Bristol today. Lovely people, great to work with them all. One question partly stayed with me. And that is, why do I write, and how do I keep on going? It stayed with me as this is something I am often asked, and is something that I have been weighing up in my own therapy.
Writing is a very personal experience for me. It always has been. But it has also been a very psychological one. When I was 6 years old, I recall writing a story about a group of crime solving kids who were on their way to America when their plane was hit by missile from somewhere, and the children struggle to survive their ordeal. Whilst I was writing this story, my father, who was in the room, lowered his Guardian newspaper and called over to me. He asked to see my work, so I showed it to him, hoping he would approve of my story. Instead, my father said nothing, reading my work, putting it down, and going back to his paper. I never finished that story. He never read any of my work again. I didn’t publish anything until I was in my late 20s.
This brief vignette speaks to some of the imagination, and the pain, which goes into my writing (or emerges out of it). So, this month’s blog is a small piece of the answer to some of the questions I get asked. It is a different blog, as I am aware that I can and have been writing some very deep, meaningful, political blogs recently. This one is a personal give to all the readers of these blogs, from my soul to yours.
Diary Note 1st January 1984: My reasons for writing this diary are simple. These will be my last words before I decide to end my life. I have decided after a lot of thought that this life is not one worth living. I have few friends at school, and I am not happy there, and there is nothing for me at home. My family barely speak to me, and when they do, all they tend to do is to put me down or criticise me unfairly for something I am supposed to have done. I sleep all weekend, and I know that I eat too much, just to avoid the pain of where I am and how I am living. There is nothing for me here.
Stories of how much writing means to the author abound endlessly. From the diary musings of Virginia Woolf (Woolf, 2023) who would actively become depressed at the end of writing one of her many books, to the works of Russian authors who freely expressed that they would rather write than be in relationship, writing holds a certain power within it (Storr, 1988). The weight of words has been used to express both our existential angst at the world(s) around us, or/and the love we have for those who walk alongside us, or who we hold tightly at night (Camus, 2002; Shabazz, 2015).
There is power in words as well. Ben Okri, in an interview on Channel Four News back in 2018, spoke of the power of words, of writing, to empower and enflame a revolution within people. Whilst in the album ‘Curtain Call’ Eminem wrote a number of tracks about the impact of words upon him, and his ability to transform that into a weight of lyrics which would disrupt those who had offended him (Eminem, 2005).
People write for many reasons, but like all of these writers, poets, directors and artists mentioned in this section, their use and connection to words and creativity is both an internal necessity as well as an external consequence of their needs for self-expression.
Diary Note February 2021: When my marriage ended back in 2018, I had no idea the horrors my ex-wife would visit upon me. The things I have endured, the trials by the fires of hell that I have gone through, the separation from my child, the isolation and the sadness. There were times when it was all too bleak, when I considered allowing myself one final embrace by the Seven Sisters as a way out. Yet, it was in the days after our separation that I decided to write my first book. #Mockingbird was driven by a will to live, a drive to continue, to say what I needed to say, to have my voice heard. In many ways, writing that book, those chapters and articles, these blogs, is what saved me during this period. That is why I am so proud of this book.
Personally, there is a reason therefore why writing takes up so much space for me. It is my creativity, it is a life force. It is a huge part of me. That is why whenever someone asks me how I manage to carve out space for my writing, I try and explain that I do so not so much to give it space, but to give me space.
When discussing space, the brilliant Ursula Le Guin was, for example, very clear about her writing schedule, and would dedicate most of her mornings to writing before breaking for lunch and relaxing during the afternoon (Raddeker, 2014). So, for someone like myself, who writes a lot, and produces a good amount of material, having a steady schedule, one that I am committed to, is essential for me to feel I am not only making progress with my projects, but that I am also living my inner life how I want to.
Diary Note 27th September 2023: I write because I am compelled to by something from deep within myself, something which wants to be known, something which has something to say. It was with me when I was a boy of 7 who wanted to create, and it is with me at 54 as the activist who has some important things to say. But most of all, my writing allows me to reflect. It gives me the space to review who I am, to dive deep into my own psyche. It gives me the space to drag to the surface those nuggets of black gold which are either my gift to all, or which salve my own wounds. My writing has not only saved my life. It is my life, and for this I am forever grateful.
Camus, A. (2002). The Plague (5th ed.). Penguin Classics.
Eminem. (2005). Curtain Call. Polydor Group.
Raddeker, H. B. (2014). Feminism and spirituality in fantastic fiction: Contemporary women writers in Australia. Women’s Studies International Forum, 44, 154–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2013.12.009
Shabazz, M. (2015). Looking for love. Verve Pictures.
Storr, A. (1988). Solitude. Flamingo.
Woolf, V. (2023). The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume 5 (1936-41) (A. O. Bell & A. McNeillie (eds.)). Granta.