Tag Archives: friendship

Writing as passion

The nicest thing that my grandma ever told me was when I was seven years old, 23 years ago. She said that a poem I had written in her upstairs guest room was ‘actually quite good’. It was about cowboys, I think, and it was written in verse and in pencil in a spiral book. It marks the beginning of my writing ambitions.

The most unpleasant thing that has been said about my writing was just this week, when a friend said that the first chapter (and only one they have read) was clichéd, that I just didn’t have what it takes and seemed to suggest that I give up. This, however, does not mark the end of my writing ambitions.

As I became a teenager, I started writing poems – they flowed out of me. But I also wrote what I might call prose poems, because they told a story with a poetic message to them. I also, as any youngster with literary ambitions, started drafting a fantasy novel inspired by the Elder Scrolls computer game. The poetry continued and cumulated when I was 17 with a poetic anthology of maybe 100 poems. I say maybe because, when I moved to France in 2012, I burnt the original manuscripts and there are two printed copies circulating somewhere in the world – I just don’t know where!

While at school, I learnt the beginnings of essay writing, which then was honed at university, when I must have written close to 200,000 words on Golden and Silver Age Latin literature, Roman history, Ancient Greek and Classical French tragedy, 19th century literature, with a specialisation on Stendhal and Mallarmé, and edging up to the middle of the last century. This form then found a home in a first blog called ‘Paris Theatre’, inspired by my own theatre critiques for the university newspaper, and it continues to this day in this very blog you are reading. 

I have written short stories, inspired by Maupassant and Baudelaire. And I have kept a written diary on and off throughout my whole life. I have taught a class on literature, examining the works of Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood. And now I am writing a novel, for which I wake up at 6am and write no more than 300 words at a time, crafting each paragraph with care. It is the second draft of this novel and is the fruit of many years of reflection. It is a labour of love, but also an exploration of a stylistic philosophy, inspired notably by my readings of Wayne C. Booth and Erich Auerbach. 

I could go on, but you probably get the point now. I admit that other people’s writing lists may be longer than mine. But what I see when I look back at this reflection is development: from poetry to essays, passing by short stories and blog posts, there remains the novel form to tackle. 

So this is a message to my friend, or indeed anyone who might want to take a pop at my work:

My writing is here to stay. And this is just the beginning. 

49. It takes one to know one

A liberal translation of Catullus XLIV.

O most insightful of all Marx’s grandchildren*, from those who are, have been and will be in the years to come, I, the most fragile of poets, give you my most solemn thanks, as much the most fragile of poets, are you are the greatest of hosts.

*What exemplifies Catullus’ writing is the fact that he finds place to write about his friends and his enemies, sometimes at the same time. This translation, therefore, must necessarily represent one of my friends, or one of my enemies. Or maybe even one and the same person.