Was there a moment in the timeline of my life I could pinpoint as ‘The Beginning’ of my passion? It’s a hard ask of anyone, figuring out: when was the exact moment you became a writer? I was never deemed a child prodigy. I’ve never considered my life extraordinary. I’m just an average person. What was it that the authors I respected did to awaken their passion for literary love? Was I as qualified to partake in writing as the prodigy children or the interesting iconoclasts I never was? It was disheartening harbouring the ‘average’ title. I had no real experience that I could mark as ‘The Beginning’. I was just a person with a love for words.
Suddenly It struck me. It wasn’t hours spent studying War and Peace or devotion to the semantics of language that these artists were cherished for. These people were recognized for the emotions they relayed to their audience through their work. My love of writing, came from being alive, in that moment, and every moment I had ever lived. The desire, or rather need, to read and write comes from an appreciation for life and the emotions it presents us with. Every one of us has had some sort of experience, be it good or bad. To read and write is to replay the events of life in any way we want, to record and live in human emotion through retrospect. With this realisation in mind, I had an easier task. It wasn’t a question of which moment started my passion. It was a question of how my life had shaped me into the person I am today.
The First Beginning
I guess the first event in the timeline of my literary appreciation could be charted to my eight year old self. At the time, my parents had gone shopping, and my father, avid film enthusiast bought home a collection of DVDs. Intrigued, I looked through the bundle and watched as dad pulled a film out of the collection. He tapped the case and said, ‘Great film. You’ll have to watch it when you’re older.’ Suffice to say, this was not an option for my young and impressionable eight year old self. That night, when everyone had fallen asleep, I tiptoed to the television with DVD in my grasp. Almost three hours later, I had finished Apocalypse Now. I was terrified.
I understood that what I had seen was ‘just a movie’ (I repeated it to myself several times during particularly distressing scenes) but I still felt frightened. This was the first time in my life I realised that a piece of art could really conjure an emotion to a dizzying effect. Although I understood that art was no more real than a dream, there was still a very real emotion that remained. This certainly didn’t help me enjoy the process of watching the film, however there was an allure in the fact that an artist could manipulate the audiences emotion through their craft.
I found the reciprocal of my Apocalypse Now experience about a year later. I donned my best Ferris Bueller impersonation and took a ‘sick’ day from school. As soon as I was alone I stopped feigning and pulled out my copy of Rohld Dahl’s Matilda. There was something about reading the simplistic words and childish allegory that brought me joy. I couldn’t pull myself away from Dahl’s fable of morals and values.
Like a dream I understood that stories were not real. But also just like a dream I was pulled into the experience without warning. Bereft of lucid thought I floated with the current of ensuing emotion; deftly manoeuvred by the strokes of the writer. I was under the spell of a dream, until I woke. Until I looked back at the experience and thought, it was only a book. It was only words. But the emotions these words gave me stayed. These stories created simple life experiences that began shaping my appreciation for the written word.
The Second Beginning
Though aware of the power, I feel that the first time I truly used the merits of literature to my advantage was years down the track in my final days of schooling. Deep in the days of my exam week I would tap away at my computer. Studying textbook after textbook I became frustrated. I felt trapped living in a small rural town. Isolated from the inner city action I would read about while procrastinating. I had a head full of teenage ambition and nowhere to release it. I was discontent with the mundane landscape around me. A blatant rebelliousness to study blinded me from continuing. I had to find a way out. Browsing holiday tours and travel sights I searched for motivation, but there was something clinical about the descriptions of supposed destinations. I understood that unless I was motivated to push through this period, I would drown in a sea of failed examinations and assignments. I had to find something that would make me feel.
Milling through a bookstore one afternoon I came across a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Hearing reviews through pop culture describing the book as life changing and soul affirming, I quickly secured a copy and began reading as soon as I returned home. Suddenly the door of my cage was thrown open. Kerouac’s restless prose drove me to complete my work at the same relentless pace. I burned through the night like the book’s jacked up protagonists who surfed the American landscape. Suddenly I was aware of the possibilities life after work could offer. Suddenly the mundane didn’t seem so bad for the time being.
Though previously aware of it, this was the first point in my life I consciously used the power of words to make my life better. There are times in our lives where the present day seems unbearable and the future far away. But reading Kerouac’s fever dream of open road antics left me open to the idea of time. Though it may take a passage of years to reach your destination, once you hit that stop on your journey the road there never seems so bad. I did make it out of my small town to pursue my dreams, the push of beatnik lyricism paving the way for my journey.
The Third Beginning
Often there are times in our life we feel as if we have no control, that we are simply pulled by the invisible strings of an unseen force. Years later, once I had completed my schooling, I received a devastating phone call. Someone I held very dear in my heart was killed unexpectedly. I was devastated. This was the first time in my life I had come face to face with death. I had known people and been close to people who had passed, but never to this extreme. Straight away, my days were thrown into slow motion. I drifted through time until about a week later I was thrown into the terrible realisation that she was gone forever. Thoughts, emotions and questions culminated in my head. I felt trapped in a small dark room, shadows shifting around me. I was frightened. I was angry. I was confused. The most difficult part for me was bottling up what was locked inside. Because we weren’t very close before her death, I felt I didn’t have the right to speak to people who were when she passed. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her, so many questions for her friends, and so many questions for myself. Most of them started with: Why?
Why I didn’t talk to someone at the time I am unsure, but my solitude forced me to scrawl my thoughts on paper for temporary relief. Soon this relief became something greater. Writing through this period for me wasn’t some sort of cathartic endeavour where I would pour my heart and soul onto the paper in the hopes for freeing myself from the torment of loss. It was the opposite really. To write was to see the emotions I felt much clearer. They had more sting and despondent weight than they just carried in my head. Though I wasn’t solving any grief by writing, I was beginning to finally understand what I was going through by literally translating my thought processes. The shadows of life were becoming visible. Though it was difficult putting the emotion on paper and coming face to face with it, there was a purpose. Certainly, it was great that I wrote my emotions down and got to the root of them, but what was the point? Why would I want my grief to be out in the open with more clarity than ever?
It was at this point in my life I recognised my appreciation, need to, and love of writing. To write is to relay the thoughts emotions and mindsets we, as the authors, have culminated over a lifetime of experience. To write is to live in retrospect. Though I wasn’t solving anything by coming to terms with my thoughts and memories, I had a connection to the past. I had a memory in my mind that was untouched by the changing nature of life. It was true that she was gone, but part of her still remained. I was writing to connect to the inner feelings I had that no other medium could allow me access to. I was writing to live life again.
Looking through photos and sifting through memories, it was difficult to string together some sort of coherent plot in the story of my literary appreciation. Every memory I could recall just seemed random and unstructured, just dots on a piece of paper. Taking time to ruminate on the fact, it occurred to me that no one’s past would form a flowing story of perfect exposition. The random marks of my human experience were all important. Just like words, these seemingly random dots when connected to others, draw a picture of who I am as a person. They all tell a story of how I was, and who I have come to be.
Life presents us with a cavalcade of emotions and events. Do not be afraid of the future nor weary from the past. Understand life, learn from it, and live it. Use the written word as a guide. I was never deemed a child prodigy or an interesting iconoclast. I am just an average person, but I am living a literary life.