Scribo, Ergo Sum: I Write, Therefore I Am
by Edwina Carson
I write, therefore I am. This pretty much sums up what writing means to me these days. Writing my feelings, thoughts, ideas and stories down has become such an integral part of me that I couldn't imagine having to live without a computer (or at least paper and pencil) to write with.
Writing and me have a long history, although it's been pretty much of a love-hate relationship ever since. I was making up stories long before I could read or write. Acting them out with friends or on my own. When we grew a little older and my friends decided they were too old for playing fantasy games, I began to primarily make up stories in my mind.
At the beginning, after I had learned to write, writing was merely a means to save all those fictional tales I had come up with from being forgotten altogether.
I started a great number of stories when I was a teenager, mostly scifi stories of other teenagers my current age who met aliens or lived on spaceships or discovered graves of ancient Egypt pharaohs. I had so many ideas that I felt were great and should be written down. Unfortunately, I never got any further than the plot description or the first few pages. I just couldn't write it to my satisfaction.
The problem is, I've been blessed - or cursed, depending on how you look at it - with a high sensitivity for language and narrative logic, which allowed me to look at my work from a critical distance. This sensitivity, combined with a severe over-consciousness for what I say or do or write and a strong tendency for nit-picking and perfectionism, really does the trick and keeps me from being satisfied with my own work on a permanent basis.
Then, my fascination with the English language flourished and I began writing in English. Understand, my mother tongue is German and I have always lived in that country, so what I started out with was the little school English I had obtained and a certain amount of vocab and grammar picked up while reading fanfiction on the net. So my first attempts were, naturally, hardly satisfying.
The very first story I ever finished was a Quantum Leap fan fiction. I was about 15 years old and, of course, very soon after it was finished began rewriting; up until now I have never quite got it right enough to make it public, though. But it was definitely an improvement.
I have made up so many fanfictions over the years but unfortunately wrote very few of them down just yet.
I started my first novel in 2001, when I was sixteen years old. Well, actually it was rather a crime novel, which is even tougher to write. Anyway, I started out in German and didn't get very far. The style sounded all wrong and the action seemed lame, too little thought through. Some years later I began from scratch and started to write it all in English. I didn't get very far until I stumbled over the next problems. That nagging feeling began to consume me; the feeling that the characters were still poorly defined where personal history was concerned and the intended story line was too simple. Then, I just couldn't by the life of me decide how the story should continue, especially not who the culprit was going to be. Now, I've temporarily stopped rewriting and am currently trying to get my story line and characters straight before I once again start anew. It's gonna be a long time - if ever - until I'll actually finish that one, I suppose.
In that same year, I started writing essays and began to work on my own homepage. I knew I was improving, but I still couldn't bring myself to be satisfied with my own writing. Sometimes there are the good days when I actually like what I have written. But then there are the bad days when I feel that urge to go and completely rewrite everything just from scratch.
I never actually stopped writing for a longer period of time. But there were times I really wouldn't want to write because everything I wrote sounded pathetic to my own ears. I said earlier that writing and me have had a love-hate relationship. This was when I really hated writing. I hated that I wanted to do it so badly but couldn't and berated my own eagerness for perfection.
In retrospect, I can't help to feel that, had we had more creative writing exercises at school, especially had we learned how to improve our writing, this might not have hit me so badly. But unfortunately, most of my teachers seemed to think that writing fiction or essays was just something you were either good at or not and should not be done in undergraduate classes overmuch.
The problem lies mostly with the school system, I suppose. Contrary to the US schools, where they actually have classes on how to write a book, many German teachers adore writers as people unaccountably gifted and talented beyond measure. It's some sort of hero worship of arcane and privileged minds that can be reached only by few. They don't realize that, while writing indeed requires some talent and loads of fantasy and inspiration, it is also a craftsmanship that can be taught and learned and improved.
Anyway, that opinion rubbed off on me so much that I felt that I just couldn't write and that I was hopeless.
Time passed and I grew older, a little more mature. I read a lot. It was mainly fanfic at the beginning; later I wound up devouring almost anything from scientific texts and essays to novels and plays that sounded interesting. My writing and my English noticeably improved and I was having fun writing again. Although I still felt I wasn't ready for public exposure, I began to realize that, contrary to my teachers' beliefs, writing was something you can learn and get better at.
But then, I stumbled into the best piece of fanfiction I had ever come across, which is actually the best damn fiction story ever, and it discouraged any ambition I might have had for becoming a writer as I realized that, no matter how much I practiced, I'd never be that good.
Needless to say, I was pretty beat for some time. I put everything I'd been working on on ice and decided that some people have it and some don't; and since I clearly hadn't I'd better concentrate on other things.
I don't really know how it happened, but somewhere along the line I realized that my writing didn't have to be perfect. That it is more important that I'm satisfied - within reason, of course - with my own writing and that it doesn't matter so much if others are better. I'll never get rid of that perfectionist part of my personality and will always be haunted by self-doubt from time to time, but at least I managed to come up with some pieces I felt were quite good. And that's a definite improvement. I have posted a few essays on my homepage now, and maybe one day I'll go and publish my first piece of fiction.
One thing I know for sure, though. That is, whether I'll ever publish or not, I'll never stop writing. There are so many good reasons to write. Writing is fun, it's a good way of expressing my opinion and perfect to hold on to things that are otherwise easily forgotten.
Primarily, I write for myself. I write because I have so many ideas that deserve to be written down. Sometimes I write just for the heck of it, and because I like a good challenge. I write because I like to play with language.
As Thomas Berger said: "Why do writers write? Because it isn't there."
© Eddy Carson
October 30, 2005