People often wonder why I write so much. I’ve been called selfish, vain and self-obssessed. I over think things. That people don’t know me, don’t care to find out why and denigrate me according to their own judgements is something I’ve had to learn to live with. Because for me writing is the way I remember my life and my purpose. I write because otherwise I would forget who I am.
Authors write. They also plot. Plan. Dream. Re-order. Edit. Craft. Most suffer rejection, time and again. Sometimes, just sometimes, they receive encouragement that their stories may be well received. That their life and work as an author is not wasted. Today was one of those days. Seventeen pages of signed and initialed legal jargon mean I feel as Neil Armstrong might have felt when he stepped out of Apollo 11.
I believe it’s a measure of self-esteem to believe what you produce is worthwhile; but it’s a whole other level to demand money for it when so much writing out there is free. Yet last year I stopped writing for Huffington Post because they exploited millions of bloggers for their own gain. I don’t believe in exploiting others, so why would I let myself be exploited?
Anaïs was a memoirist, like me. Who was all kinds of fucked up, like me. Who followed love and personal growth as if it were a extremist religion, like me. Who was riddled with self-doubt, was dedicated to the confusion of her psyche and who wrote about her deliberations compulsively, like me.
How many of us believe that one person’s public persona or piece of writing can possibly encompass the totality of our humanity?
It turns out, we all do or at least we all want to, including me.
I’ve never had any patience with the whole tortured artist thing. And now I am one. But as it turns out torture isn’t exactly the right word, it’s more like ‘itchy’ (but ‘the itchy artist’ doesn’t sound as good).
Survival is our ultimate skill, our ultimate goal and our ultimate curse. It is the most powerful instinct we have. It can turn the meek into indiscriminate killers, acting out of fear. It can drive otherwise loving and rational folk to protect their religions at any cost. It can force those people who identify strongly with their social status, to corporate crime.
Let’s say that there is a God, he of the bible who smites cities, he of the old testament who drowns armies in seas. I understand why he might do such things, without compassion or a twinge of remorse. We are his spirit of imagination; breathed life into us, and so, he creates, kills and destroys – just for fun. And then watches how we evolve. If he doesn’t like it well hey, there’s always a plague of locusts he can send in chapter three. He can press his delete key at any moment because what he gives, he can also take away. Or can he?
Why after all this time do I still have that voice in my head? If I’m to hazard a guess, it’s because it makes me feel safe. It’s because just in case people do not like my work, I haven’t set my expectations too high and my identity tied with my achievements, will not be destroyed.
Keeping their writing under Louisa Leontiades, felt somehow like I wasn’t recognising their valuable contribution. In more intersectional terms, I felt I was erasing their voices.
After fifteen years, six major rewrites, three restructures, and now two substantive edits the Queen of the Limbo is almost ready to go out on stage and come into her own. And I am torn. I’ve loved having her here, tweaking her to idly pass the time, embellishing her with colour and power. It’s a book that has grown with me.
And then I read through the chapter again and cry. My untold story is from my soul. And I’ve lost part of it. The part that was self-indulgent, preachy and rambled.
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