As the first week of semester, this week there have been a lot of introductions. This has been a bit weird, because my course is specialized and I have my classes with all the same people. Introductions were purely for the teacher’s benefit, as we all know each other quite well by this stage.
There were a few different questions. They included; “What’s something peculiar about yourself?”, “What was the last good book you read?”, “What was the first piece of literature that really spoke to you?”, “What’s your favourite album?”, and possibly one of the more challenging ones – “Why do you write?”
Wow. Why write? It’s just too big a question to answer concisely.
I was put on the spot, and I think my answer in class was something like, “Ahhh…. Because I have something to say. But right now I have nothing to say.” I’ve been thinking about it since then. Why write?
Tonight at work these guys came in who I recognized instantly. These particular guys made many years of my life hell, though I hadn’t thought about them in a few years. When I was about 10, I had a big crush on a boy in my class. I wrote him a note and left it in his locker (actually, plastic tubs we called ‘lockers’…it all felt very grown-up). It confessed my love for him, and likened us to Romeo and Juliet (ugh!). I feel squicky just thinking about how soppy it was – gimme a break though, I was ten, and it was my first big crush.
When the boy got the letter, I don’t know what happened. I still don’t know if he showed his friends, or if he just decided to make my life hell without telling them the reason. Whatever happened, he and his posse of cool hot guys set about making the remainder of primary school hell, and this continued throughout my teenage years even though he went to a different high school.
It was really psychological stuff – I don’t remember him ever physically hurting me or anything. But I remember the looks he gave me, and the way he and his whole group would whisper when I walked past. I never told my parents, but when they told me I had to go to the private high school he went to, I begged them to send me to the public school instead. I told my parents I wanted to be with my friends, but it wasn’t so much that as wanting to avoid the torture this boy would put me through if we were at the same high school. He and his friends made me feel about two centimetres tall, every time I saw them. Growing up in a small town, it was hard to avoid. In the end it had nothing to do with the letter I left him when we were ten. It was just about how I was nothing.
So when these guys walked into the store, I felt nauseous. I wanted to hide under the counter, or run off to the toilet and let someone else serve them before they noticed me. I was working alone though, so I couldn’t.
It was really confronting – I felt exactly like I did in primary school. They still have some kind of power over me, even in Melbourne where I thought I’d shaken off all that kind of thing.
I’ve been thinking about them all night. That train of thought collided with many others. One was “Why Write?”, another was “Fucking Anxiety”.
And I came up with part of an answer that I feel satisfied with as to why I write.
I could never control how those boys made me feel, or what they did to me. I can’t control a great many things now. But I’ve always been able to control what I create. And that’s not to say that writing is some kind of cathartic process for me, because it’s not. I don’t write things to share which serve to sort out my feelings.
Words never turn me away. They never make me feel tiny, no matter how frustrated I get while working them into the shape they need. I can always depend on them, and I can control what I have to say about the world through them.
Why Write? For me, part of it is about control.