The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why, Antonios, why you do this to me?

By Antonios Maltezos

There’s been a lot of talk around here lately about starving artists and their tortured souls. Though none of us here at the CWC are starving I don’t think, we all, to some degree, have suffered for this writing thing -- because of this writing thing.

Why do it? What do you hope to achieve? You can hardly separate the two questions. They’re just begging to be spliced. Why do it, what do you hope to achieve? Not bad, but not good enough, either. Whydoitwhatdoyouhopetoachieve? Better, much better.

When I was a kid, I often wondered what propelled Superman into the air. Was it the force of his will? It couldn’t have been that he was lighter than air else he would have floated around like a helium-filled balloon. This guy could direct his flight. This guy could shoot right through the stratosphere and into outer space. It must have been the force of his will. I can remember moments in my life where I had myself convinced I could do the same thing. It didn’t matter that I could never actually get off the ground, because someday I would, for sure.

It was around the same time I started thinking about the end of things I’d grown accustomed to, my life, especially. Not in a suicidal way, never, but in a cowardly way, as if I’d already been so enamoured of the simple, childish life I’d led to that point, orange popsicles, rock fights, Farah Faucett’s nipples, and I just didn’t want it to ever end. I hadn’t yet learned to fly. Damn it! There were planets in other galaxies that functioned much better than ours, where stuff didn’t have to end, where they didn’t have wars, or diseases, athlete’s foot, head aches, and father’s who smoked four packs a day. The lambs were the bullies reincarnated from this planet, most likely, because fairness and justice and truth was all there was. On these far away planets, boys like me kept their posters of Farah under the mattress because she was always coming alive. In my youth, this was the future I was looking forward to, one big daydream. Hey, I never said I was the smartest kid.

Over the years, and with each move, I’ve managed to whittle down “my paper stack” to where I can almost carry the whole pile in one briefcase. Old stories I wouldn’t even attempt to rewrite today, school essays I was proud of and wanted keep so I could show my children how smart I was at their age. Stuff like that. A lot of it was versions of stories that had become something else, but were still filled with insight, I thought. I used a Smith Corona typewriter the first few years I wrote, so there was always a stack of paper on the floor by the desk. Heck, I’ve killed so many trees and I’m still so far from being the writer I want to be. I still haven’t learned to fly.

Why do it, then? Why go on torturing myself this way? (Hold on while I sip my tea.) … so why, why, why? And why haven’t I lopped off my ear yet? We used to get The Brittanica Book of the Year when I was a kid. One of them, I don’t remember which year, had a picture in it of a protester about to chop off his pinky finger. He was going to send the finger to his governmental leader as a sign of how far he was willing to go for his cause. Sorry, I don’t remember the specifics, but I can still see the picture in my head, and I know why I kept going back to it. I couldn’t imagine giving up one of my fingers. It baffled me. Being a writer doesn’t strike me as an occupation/pastime that should require such sacrifice. I ain’t gonna do it. I’m dogged about the writing thing. I’m forty-three and I’m still dreaming up situations I can write about, but make no mistake, I’ll put it away if I have to and allow my life to unfold as it will. I’m no psychologist, but I think writing was something I stumbled upon, really, as I got older and realized what life was all about. It facilitated my growing up, I think. Either that, or I never really grew up at all.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Good one, Tony. I don't think I'd sacrifice a finger either, but I wouldn't want to give up the writing thing. It's part of who I've become which I think you are saying about yourself.

Sat Sep 29, 12:03:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Very powerful, Tony. I think I sit at the other side of it; but I don't have a family to worry about, just myself. Too many years of trying to do anything else but this writing thing has made me realise I can't do anything but this. And sacrifice to some degree will be required. I'll keep my fingers, mind, if only becauae it would make the act of writing that much more complicated.

Sun Sep 30, 01:23:00 pm GMT-4  

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