Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writer? Uh...maybe?

Oh Lord. The hellish gap between my blogging intentions and my blogging output is staring me in the face again. I knew I should never have made that resolution about posting more often: last year when I had no such lofty ideals I was much more productive. And as I keep telling Ink Head, blogging is a muscle that has to be exercised...I just got a little lazy.

Anywho, I am off to stock up on culture and clove perfume in Zanzibar over the next two days. Book Salaam is making its debut as a fringe event of the Sauti za Busara annual music festival. African Bambataa is a fan of the dude of honor, one Patrick Neate, who is coming down from the UK to support the Tanzanian iteration of his critically acclaimed London Book Slam. Just about everyone I know from the Paradisan writing scene is heading there en mass, all thirty or forty odd of us. I don't know what to expect but I know that whatever happens, it will be good.

As I started running down my list of preparations this evening- camera battery plugged in, where are the moleskine notebook and black ink pens, don't forget to pack clean underwear and a phone charger- I realized that this year I might be in imminent danger of aspiring to become a Writer, thanks to the overwhelming temptations of a collegial atmosphere. The other day under the influence of alcohol and warm enthusiasm from a nearly-published author, I let it slip that I would love to write biographies. And I would. But what posessed me to admit it?

What's the problem, you ask? This is a matter of self-definition, and determination, and choices- all that good stuff. I remember an article by a new author- I think it may have been Alexandra Robbins/Abby Wilner, or maybe someone completely different- who basically said that calling herself a writer and then trying to live it was one of the most terrifying things she had ever done. I could relate to that. I suppose anyone who has ever enforced a clear distinction between their artistic and pragmatic sides can relate to that.

As a writer with a small double-you, I can comfortably pursue my more lucrative and socially-approved ambitions. I can dedicate myself to my job. Admittedly it consists largely of reading and writing, but it comes with a salary and perhaps even health insurance in the future. As a writer in small caps I can fantasize about making enough money to buy a Fahm in Africah while nursing my other plans for world domination. But if I were to allow myself to capitalize that double-you, things would have to change.

Writers write. It is their raison d'etre, whether or not they succeed at it in the public eye. Writers write at the expense of ambitions to own a farm, at the expense of jobs with health insurance, sometimes at the expense of healthy relationships. In college I took a class for African Studies that brought me into contact with the work of a brilliant short story writer from Zimbabwe. His work was devastating, I can still recall some of it by memory (and my memory is a Swiss Cheese, evidently, since I cannot retain his name). But the man is/was also struggling with some pretty serious mental health issues in his civilian life. And I get it, I get him. Aspiring to Be a Writer and let the artistic side make the decisions is a rather unattractive ambition for anyone who likes the idea of a neatly ordered and logically progressive life.

I recently came across a potential ally in the quest for a literary magazine, an ambition I had been secretly nurturing for a couple of years. As it turns out, this year marks the beginning of a literary revolution in Paradise. This social idea is coming to fruition in many minds all at the same time: SOMA magazine, rumors of a writers' workshop, Book Salaam...we're all negotiating our alliances and rivalries in the area of innovation and collective effort. I have no idea how this will turn out, it could go either way: a small but critically-acclaimed journal someday, and the chance to do some interesting work, or complete loss of momentum. In an effort to guard the latter somewhat, this is the first entry in the This Writing Life section of the blog. With some luck, it will not go the way of the food blogging entries. Let me end here since tonight I have some homework to do: who is Patrick Neate?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Writer,
    Your readers would love to read more of your writing. We miss you.


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