Category Archives: writing

An untold story from a widely unknown writer

I woke up at 8:30 am today fully intending on having a very productive saturday. My plan was to clean my home and then spend the afternoon reading and writing. You see, I’m trying to create a schedule, some self-discipline — all in order to write more seriously.

I sat down to have my breakfast, a much needed coffee and went on to dust, vacuum, clean and tidy up my house. Clean house, clean mind, or so they say. I had thought of making a healthy lunch, cook some mushrooms with vegetables, but when I finally finished cleaning up I was tired and hungry, so I just ordered pizza. That should have been the first sign that the day was not going to go according to my precise plan. I ignored the warning and ate, watched a series and then cleaned everything up.
And then I did nothing the rest of the day.

It’s 6 pm and I’m writing this.

Here’s what I did between 2pm and 6pm: nothing.

Four neat hours of nothing. Four neat hours I had intended for writing, for reading, for making my notes and begin a novel or a short-story, or finish one of the multiple stories I have started and never got back to.

This is the typical story of someone who can’t write. It’s been written before, of course. It’s been written better and with beautiful philosophical conclusions, so you probably should read those other stories and not this one.

And yet.

Yet. I’m going to tell you how it is to live inside my head. Should you care about what goes on inside other people’s heads at all? Especially, if they’re heads you don’t know? Apparently that’s one of those things they say makes us human, so it must mean something. Inside my head, there is sometimes nothing at all. And sometimes too much. You must be thinking: “what’s so special about that? Everyone is like that”. There is nothing special about me. Or you. Everyone has a story. Some people have better stories than you or me. Some people have it all going according to plan, others, more commonly, fuck it up all the time and then go back to redo it. I always have a plan that I end up fucking up.

Black flowers blossom. Today my plan was write write write. I’m not a writer, that’s why I need to do it like this. My hobby is a job. The things I love most are my job and my job is writing and reading, even if that’s not my real job. I use to say that to write you need to have basic conditions. I use to say – and get very angry about it – conditions matter! It matters if you have a good desk, a good chair for your back, good lighting, a computer that doesn’t break or slow you down. These are the material conditions, but you also need some more difficult-to-measure ones: silence and stillness; no one bothering you for hours on end; time set apart from life and obligations; time, indeed — you probably have more of it if you don’t have anyone depending on you; it matters also that you’re not sick, or at least that you’re able. Basic conditions. I argue that they can make all the difference. It does make some difference if you have a job from nine to five and can only write in the few spare hours left between that and sleeping. You might decide sleeping is overrated. Writing with a full-time job is different from, say, writing full-time. Some people, even here in Portugal, have the luxury to do that — quit jobs and write full-time — since money is not a problem for them. It also makes some difference if you’re born elsewhere. Say, the UK. Or the US. Places where you can apply to scholarships and enroll in MAs on Writing. So, yeah. Conditions. They definitely change when you can learn directly from Margaret Atwood or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. They definitely change if you have the most powerful language in the world as your first one, instead of struggling through it. That definitely changes almost everything.

I don’t remember a time when stories didn’t matter to me. I don’t remember a time when stories didn’t play easily inside my head. I hadn’t yet learn how to write my name, but I already told stories to everyone that would listen. Of course I started to write them as soon as I learned how to. I was never not writing. I say “conditions matter”, but I also know from experience that when you have a story to tell, conditions don’t matter a dime. I wrote as I walked to classes; I didn’t have any paper, but still I wrote; I wrote with my mother screaming at me to go clean my room and tidy up my wardrobe; I wrote after hours; I wrote in scraps of papers and in the back of receipts; I wrote at every recess at school: as the bell chimed, I was already writing in my head; as I got bullied for wearing glasses and being weird, I was, of course, taking refuge with my characters. I wrote my way through school, like so many people who write since they know themselves as people. I had words, I had faces and names that no one else knew, and I had worlds. Writing never saved me, but I saved writing for me as the most precious thing I had. When everything else fell apart, I had somewhere to go. As the years went on, I wrote against every teenage angst. I took writing to the real world and used it to act upon it. I no longer invented unseen worlds, but I was still writing. Fiction came back again later on, like a destiny one tries to escape but everyone knows they won’t, not really. I borrowed some characters and built on them.

Again, conditions didn’t matter. I wrote late into the night. I wrote with my back hurting badly. I wrote on uncomfortable sofas and on beds and I wrote while moving between different homes, and I wrote through two huge breakups and I wrote through changing jobs; I wrote through depression, through heartache and back pain; I wrote while my life fell apart and rose back again; I wrote on my lunch break; and on the bus stop; and on the bus, pressed between bodies of strangers; I wrote a full story on the subway, on my phone, Google Keep open and my fingers on the screen; I wrote when I should be sleeping, when I should be doing other, more important, useful things; I wrote knowing those characters weren’t mine, I wrote knowing I could never use that for anything, that it was the most useless thing I’ve ever done in life. In a year and a half, I wrote 30 stories. I published them in a fanfiction site. Hundreds of people across the world commented on my stories. Some of my stories have more than 20 thousand hits. I found out I could start a story and finish it. For a year and half, I had these two british blokes — queer and disturbed and mad for each other — in the back of my mind at all times. For a year and half, I had them with me as I slept, laughed, got sick, got together with friends, stayed home with my cat. For some reason I don’t quite understand, these two men held the key to the stories I wanted to tell. They had nothing to do with me — I mean, they had as much to do with me as any white gay man might have, which is nearly nothing. And yet, they were me and I was them. I see them as clearly as I see you, if I meet you for coffee; sometimes, I probably see them the clearer. When you have a story to tell, it’s easy to let life fall away. Things that are real don’t really matter as much; in fact they intrude on you and steal you away from the only reality you want to keep. I know I have to let them go. It’s time for me to stop hiding behind them.

To have a story to tell and lack the words for it, is agony. Maya Angelou tells it better than me: there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. I carry this agony with me everywhere I go. It’s in the back of my mind everyday. I can laugh and I can help my friends and I can change my hair and be nice to you, but if you could crack my head open you’d see this precious stone of agony, crystal clear. Dark flower blossoming. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about writing. But a ton of days go by without my writing a word. I resort again to complaining: conditions matter! I drown in feelings of injustice: that I have to pay my bills; that I could be a man; that I could be rich; that I could be doing a masters in writing. But I know these are excuses. They’re also ways for me to hinder myself. And they’re most effective, for if I feel treated unjustly, discriminated against or if I just waste all my time thinking of the things I don’t have to make this dream come true, I’ll be effectively NOT doing it.

Now that I have to leave them, these two characters, I’m facing all my untold stories. I have no characters; I have no plots; I have unordered, unfiltered feelings; I have ideas, and notebooks, and more books to read than my life span. I read to write. I never just read for reading, for the sake of it. And I love reading. I buy books to feel I have something to look forward. I buy books because they’re a promise. A promise to myself, that I’ll read them, that at least I intend to; a promise that I’ll learn from them; a promise that they’ll be a part of me and of my writing one day; I read all these women I admire, and think of our untold stories, of this whole universe of exploding stars, that some say is too narrow. To write about women is a risk and a nail in your coffin. People that know about the whole writing business will tell you to drop it; to expand your views. To broaden your universe. And you know why. You know men have always told the story. You know they are never told to broaden their universe, for when they tell men’s stories they’re obviously talking about the whole of humankind. And when women write about women they’re obviously talking about unimportant, specific details no one cares about.

I’ve been writing all this for two hours. I cried through some of it. Struggled through most of it. I’m afraid of my own stories. I’m afraid of diving into the wreck of me. I’m afraid I’ll keep coming up empty handed. I wish I could read without care again. I wish to forget that writing is my life. I wish I wasn’t so serious about this. I wish I could just drop it. Let it fall where it landed, let it be. Read the books I want. Fangirl about characters. Go back to writing for nothing and no one.

I was only ever free when I didn’t care, when I wrote because I breathe and there’s nothing special about breathing.

Except, you know, being alive.  

Anúncios

Ode to being alone

Things you can only really enjoy by being and staying alone

 

Read more books

Read more deeply

Taste the words

Sleep with them

No interruptions

No obstructions

Write write write

Only pay attention to the cat

Spend afternoons at the library

Or inside your head

Go incommunicado

Make up a tornado

Listen to songs you want to

The ones that mean a whole lot to you

Dance, there’s no one watching

Have the bed all to yourself

At all times

And your hands only to you

And your body

And your mind

And your dreams

And your fantasies

Watch whatever you want on the TV

Turn it off at will

Buy yourself a present

Leave your body unshaven

Or shave it just for you

Go to the cinema

By yourself

And taste movies like you never did before

Whatever you did do before

Do it now

It’s not the same, trust me

It’s a whole lot better

Enjoy silence or noise

Warmth or rain

Pizza or bubblegum

Wear your old cozy underwear

Have no plans for the weekend

Or plan all things to your liking

All free time is absolutely and totally yours

Change your mind in the middle of the day

Binge read every crap you want

Rediscover poetry

Classics

Porn

Make every decision by yourself

And every mistake too

Go offline, off your phone, off the grid

Go everywhere and anywhere

Have your nails as long as you want them

Cook your food

Dress your dresses

Have the days all to yourself

Not just the leftovers from someone else

Pay attention to whomever you want

To the world too

In ways only possible when no one has a claim to you

Only do your own laundry

Clean your own dishes

Only do your own emotional labour

Not his, or hers, or the relationship or the couple.

Get to know yourself

Know with full proof certainty that you can be alone and great

Know with full proof certainty that you matter and you are enough

Know with full proof certainty you can create and breathe and live on your own

Know that this only happens when you have the time to be alone

 

And at Valentine’s Day: do whatever

Celebrate being alone as the greatest gift ever.

 

Illustrations made by www.sara-herranz.com/


Gosto de ir à feira do livro sozinha

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Gosto de ir à feira do livro sozinha.

Talvez seja apenas mais uma das muitas coisas que tenho lentamente vindo a descobrir que gosto de fazer sozinha.

Vou no meu tempo, paro no meu tempo, fico no meu tempo, pego num livro, volto para trás, salto bancas, ando em ziguezague, fico meia hora numa só porque sim, ou passo os olhos só porque sim.

Já fui à feira do livro de muitas formas. Primeiro em família, mais de corrido porque só íamos um dia ou noite, o dinheiro não era muito e a minha lista tinha que ir bem definida, muitas cedências pelo caminho e tentar agradar a todos; depois mais crescida com amigas, num ritmo mais de passeio, sempre com longas pausas pelo caminho, gente perdida, telefonemas para reencontro, conversas começadas, interrompidas, esquecidas, repetidas, para a frente, para trás; depois com namorados e namoradas, de mãos dadas, mais cedências e partilhas, olha aqui este que te interessa, olhar mais para livros que interessam ao outro do que a mim, comprar prendas só porque sim e depois reparar que afinal não comprei nenhum para mim (sim, tendência para me esquecer de mim); depois (ao mesmo tempo) mais em grupo com diferentes interesses num pára-arranca desmesurado ou sem sentido, numa corrida às grandes, às específicas; outras vezes de corrida à hora dos descontos, hora perdida passada na fila. Até já um primeiro encontro tive na feira do livro. Foi um encontro único, não vi nenhum livro, mas valeu a pena por ser na feira. Entretanto comecei a trabalhar no meio editorial e a feira passou a ser isto e muitas outras coisas. Deixou de ser possível olhar a feira com olhos só inocentes, fora da lógica de um mercado pequeno e competitivo, redundante, e então a feira passou a ser também reparar em espaços, tamanhos, destaques, eventos, marketings diversos. Em nenhum momento temi que isso matasse a minha outra feira, aquela dos livros, dos sonhos, do querer, do me perder, do esquecer as horas. Porque os dois olhares coexistem e o meu trabalho não matou o amor, não matou o cheiro do livro, não matou nada, se é possível aumentou ainda mais, focou na lente e agora o olhar é exigente, é questionador, eu agora já não quero só uma história, eu quero que o livro me mude, me pergunte, me faça andar, morrer. Não quero só que me entretenha, mas preciso que me entretenha, preciso que o tempo passe, mas não pode passar sem deixar marca. Mas bem, não era nada disto que eu queria dizer, eu queria mesmo dizer que agora, agora vou à feira sozinha.

É muito bom partilhar o amor pelos livros, muito bom ir com amigos e falar deste e daquele livro, partilhar amores comuns por autores e histórias. Mas há uma liberdade imensa em poder fazer isto sozinha, no meu tempo, as minhas regras ou ímpetos, ou sem regra alguma que não seja a da minha vontade. E hoje essa liberdade para mim vale cada vez mais, esse tempo de não falar com ninguém, de parar e descobrir um livro, de nem sequer pegar no telemóvel, de não estar contactável, de ir ao encontro dos livros que já tenho só para olhar para eles de novo e lhes acariciar a capa, recordar algo deles, ou ir em busca daquele que já tenho na lista, ou simplesmente decidir que agora só leio mulheres e só compro livros de autoras portuguesas, de me deixar ir por impulso atrás de um livro porque a pessoa ao meu lado na banca comenta com a amiga “esta autora é incrível, tem uma escrita maravilhosa” enquanto aponta para um livro de uma escritora portuguesa e eu decidir ali que o levo porque sim, mesmo sabendo que não tenho dinheiro nem espaço para livros, que todos os meus livros estão em sacos no corredor da casa para onde me​ mudei há um mês porque não tenho estantes para eles e mesmo assim levo.

E se não fosse o dinheiro, sempre essa contenção aflitiva na mente, esta liberdade seria louca, percorrer a feira sem regra, sem preocupação com o dinheiro, não ter que contar mentalmente o que já gastei, não ter que fazer orçamento ou controlar a compulsão de coleccionar livros a maior velocidade do que aquela a que alguma vez vou ler, sabendo que terei sempre mais livros que vou querer do que capacidade para os ler (ou tempo de vida), sabendo que comprei o Americanah da Chimamanda na última feira – quase mil páginas, a delícia, os livros grandes, longos, fazem-me salivar e tenho três em casa por ler, porquê? Não os li ainda e mesmo assim olho para outro e perco a razão, a coerência – dizia eu que da Chimamanda não ainda nem uma página e se eu fosse uma pessoa razoável não comprava mais nenhum livro até ler todos os que tenho – e todos os anos eu prometo a mim mesma que é isto que vou fazer e todos os anos minto, mesmo sabendo que esta vontade é insaciável.

Mas há algo de tão incrível, de tão confortável na ideia de que todos esses livros estão ali à minha espera, que se eu quiser vou criar tempo de silêncio para os ler e que ler é essa incrível actividade que eu sempre fiz sozinha sem nunca me sentir sozinha e que na verdade muitos de nós cheios de terror de estarmos sozinhos a fazemos dessa forma, e assim me lembro o quanto me descubro no facto de estar sozinha.

É o que me permite ir a feira sozinha, fazer o caminho sozinha, com música nos ouvidos, chegar a casa sozinha às horas que me apetece, não ter que me explicar, não dar satisfações, não ter sequer que pensar em mais ninguém, onde estou, para onde vou, deitar-me e escrever este texto sozinha. Sozinha, sozinha. Sozinha é o que me fez voltar a escrita. Sozinha foi o que me fez voltar à ficção, fora deste blogue, fora das reflexões públicas, fora do dar a cara, do ser activista, do estar presente, fora fora fora. Já vivi, agora escrevo e eu sempre vivi bem a escrever. Não esperem mais de mim.

Vou voltar a escrever aqui, sim. Vou voltar porque há coisas que quero escrever, porque os fins também precisam de ser falados e ditos, porque os silêncios também dizem alguma coisa, porque escrever me reconstrói e eu não posso ceder ao medo de dizer que mudei, que sou outra, que não faz mal, que tudo o que eu era se calhar já não sou e que o mais importante do que eu fui se calhar é o que sou.

Agora tenho um quarto só meu (Virginia, obrigada, fazes sempre sentido) e tenho a solidão indispensável à criação e hoje sinto-me cheia, cheia, cheia de mim, na minha companhia, e isso pela primeira vez não é mau. É expansão, é recomeço. Sozinha é o princípio.