I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I started writing, but I must have been around 13. No one else in my family was much of a reader, and no one was a writer, so I have no clue where my literary urges originated. At any rate, said urges poured out of me in weird ways during those early years, mostly in stream-of-consciousness ramblings that served no other purpose than to release a directionless creative drive that bubbled within me.

Take, for instance, the following untitled piece, which appeared on the first blog I ever created, called, for some reason, “thoughts that linger and piss down the back of your skull”:

February 30-

a pig flew today. out of the ordinary, yes, but no one really seemed to notice. he just went on flying, over buildings, streets and all rivers that lay below. not a word was said nor a question raised about this unique occurence. i tend to wonder why. it’s not like people couldn’t see him, hell the damned thing was 42 feet long.

the only logical conclusion i’ve been able to reach is that the entire community was simply blind to this pig. they just couldn’t see it. this could pose a problem if the pig decides to enact one of his plans for world domination. apparently he’s been mulling it over within the confounds of his mind for the past couple of weeks. an efficient defense mechanism would be needed for such an occasion. marines could secure the perimeter of the town and our city’s most venerable high jumpers could be launched into the clouds via robot, as a precautionary measure against pig-invasion of course.

all eyes would no doubt be focused on the sky; waiting, watching, and possibly wishing for that unannounced moment when the pig would suddenly strike down on the town with the force of 100 anvils. most would never wish this to happen, but there are always the stubborn few who exhibit self destructive tendencies. for them such an attack would be, what some call, ‘a welcomed relief from the ho-hum lull of day to day life’. [note: no doubt, these folks would have to be sacrificed. they pose too much of a threat to the recently-formed Huxible-Coffin Alliance (see note 453.2)]. however, no one could see the pig, including me, so was he really even there to begin with?

[Merial II]

I don’t know why I wrote this, or what it possibly could have meant to 13-year old me, but I do remember what it felt like: namely, cathartic and fun. Writing allowed me to express thoughts that I wasn’t able to articulate in everyday life — thoughts that, truth be told, didn’t need to be articulated for any practical reasons, yet somehow felt vital to my sense of individuality. Perhaps these were those vaunted “thoughts that lingered and pissed down the back of my skull”: ideas that hung around, despite their uselessness, then came spewing forth while I was alone in front of a computer. I was addicted to the feeling of secret expression. The chance to follow one’s thoughts, in solitude, was exciting to me, no matter what weird paths they scurried down.

I was addicted to the feeling of secret expression. The chance to follow one’s thoughts, in solitude, was exciting to me, no matter what weird paths they scurried down.

In that way, not much has changed. Writing is still about recreation and discovery for me, as I’m sure it is for many writers. For years, though, I avoided the label of “writer” like a guy with bad breath. Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace, Franz Kafka…those guys, my early idols, were the real writers, and to put myself in the same group as them would have been irresponsible and disrespectful, I thought. Plus, I didn’t want the responsibility of being known as a writer: to consider myself as such meant that I took myself seriously, which then would have opened me up to criticism that at the time I was far too self-conscious to handle. I balked when people complimented my work, and to some extent, still do: In my mind’s eyes, I’m a fraud that slipped in behind the gates and crashed the party. This is not where I’m supposed to be.

That being said, my writing hasn’t really gotten me anywhere. Sure, I’ve been able to make money off of it here and there, by being published in this or that publication. That much is true. But the party that I claim to have crashed doesn’t really exist. I’m not surrounded by a literary community. Nor am I not known by anybody, really. I haven’t written anything of note that people beyond my extremely small corner of the world would recognize. There has been no grand reward, no immaculate celebration, for constantly working to improve my craft. I am, like I was at age 13 (or whatever it was), just a person, alone, in front of a computer, slapping words on the page for the hell of it. I am more “a person who writes” than a “writer.”

This, of course, begs the question: why do I do it? Why do any of us do it? Why isolate myself for hours on end, speaking to no one and drinking cups upon cups of coffee, to create something that few people — and, in some cases, no one — will read? The undertaking seems patently absurd. For perspective, let’s transpose this particular mindset onto other contexts: How many painters would paint something they never intended to show anyone? How many people would dedicate their lives to becoming a great actor, then stay in their bedroom performing plays for themselves? Why would anybody do such a thing?

Why isolate myself for hours on end, speaking to no one and drinking cups upon cups of coffee, to create something that few people — and, in some cases, no one — will read? The undertaking seems patently absurd.

I’m not sure. But why does anybody do anything? The dog chases the ball and brings it back, again and again, presumably because it feels right and good to the dog. The dog, maybe, believes the main reason it was put on this Earth is to retrieve balls, one after another, and thus doing so satisfies some deep-seated feeling of dogness. The crazy painter paints in isolation to satisfy their soul. The isolated writer writes because it seems like the only thing that should be done.

Maybe there’s more to the urge to write than simply satisfying an internal fire, though. Perhaps also at play is a compulsion to document life. Change, as I’m sure you are all well-aware, is the only known constant in the universe. Writing, then, is a way to freeze time, to encapsulate a precise moment of existence, and solidify in amber the way one was thinking and feeling in that moment. How I think and feel writing this now is not how I thought and felt 10 years ago, and it won’t be how I think and feel in a decade. Twenty year-old me might have looked at this essay and thought: “There’s no way I’d be able to write something like that.” Forty year-old me might look back at this piece and think “Why in the name of Pope Francis did I write something as self-indulgent as that?” We aren’t the same people for long. The world around us, and within us, is constantly in flux, so the only way to truly remember what it felt like to exist in that body at that time is to get it all down on the page. Even if no one else reads what you’ve written, at least it will mean something to you

We aren’t the same people for long. The world around us, and within us, is constantly in flux, so the only way to truly remember what it felt like to exist in that body at that time is to get it all down on the page.

Anais Nin once said (or wrote, rather) that “we write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” I have never read anything by Anais Nin. I was scouring Google for a quote about writing, and hers was the first that struck me. It seems that Nin’s explanation of the urge to write is as reasonable as any. When something major happens in a writer’s life, we want to record it as soon as possible, lest our memory of it be swept away by time. We want to pin it down — encase it — so when we’re old and wrinkly, we can look back through our notes, as it were, and taste the sweet, sticky nectar of our past lives. If no one else reads your words, who cares? We can do it for ourselves: for the immediate thrill, as well as future remembrance.

With that in mind, maybe the flying pig story written by 13-year old me actually has a semi-logical interpretation. Yeah: a pig flew today. No one noticed him, but he kept on flying, over buildings, streets and all rivers that lay below. Flying for the feeling, just as a writer writes for the feeling. 

With that in mind, maybe the flying pig story written by 13-year old me actually has a semi-logical interpretation. Yeah: a pig flew today. No one noticed him, but he kept on flying, over buildings, streets and all rivers that lay below. Flying for the feeling, just as a writer writes for the feeling. 

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