The International Writers Magazine: On Being A Writer
Premonitions of angels
Just keeping on
Flecked with dizzying introspection, difficult, monstrous yet inspiring new things that bring you joy; wise, prizewinning and valuable old things, infinite and soulful things, alien flighty things, things of motion, writing lets us transform that winter guest called solitude.
Quiet blood in the open, the chambers of future and destiny await tolerable little you patiently; that is how it begins before it withers away completely from your mind. So swiftly you scribble as darkness changes to light; to a good fight and even though angels or angelic voices are not always part of the writing scenery (that is always open to interpretation) there is always the angelic realm that awaits you at the end of your journey when you’re caught up in the preparation and improvement of the numbing black grip of letters of the alphabet.
Victories in childhood came at a heavy price in my household as I am sure it did in other childhoods of writers as well. There were happy days and there were more than often unhappier days but my parents stayed together ‘for better or for worse’. There were lonely days, days when my brain felt wired, when I felt electrified by the thoughts and the emotions running through me at fever pitch. I wished I was like other children; that I could make mud pies and that would be it for me; that it would be a big hit for my mother that I could join in with the other kids, have fun and make mud pies and pretend I made a real pie for her. Just for her but it didn’t work out that way. She was demanding and elegant. She was emotional and elegant at the same time.
She could smell of perfume and rage about something that didn’t mean a damn thing but that meant the world to her at that moment just as she was spilling her guts out but she could also be extraordinarily kind to other people in less fortunate circumstances than we were in and ran the risk of being taken advantage of by those very same people that she reached out to but she was oblivious to that and her helpless children who could only hope that she could reach out to them and pay attention to them more. ‘Don’t blame me for your unhappiness.’ She says now that we’re all grown. ‘We gave you the best of everything.’ She says as if she knows better; as if she knows it all, as if she knows what it was like for us to grow up where other kids called us ‘weird’ and ‘Chocolate’.
Where my brother was the king of sorrow and my sister wrote about us; her family in stories; changed our names, our ages, our careers and put passwords on all her stories on the computer. Her stories had names like ‘Trapped’, ‘The weight, Yellow, A pale September’, ‘Obsession’, ‘Passengers’, ‘Slide Show’ and ‘Untitled’. She might as well have been invisible. And she was in a gilded golden locked cage of her own making behind her bedroom door listening to music pumping through the stereo through her ear phones into her head where I was completely off limits. I was ruined for life. ‘Psycho’. Her room was a fortress, an impenetrable castle that only saw the light of dawn, a pulse of yellow through the closed curtains and at night the evening shade. I don’t remember much of her journey. I wasn’t there for most of it. I only know now she is a tough doll and that cage of hers is set in stone and flattery.
The way of the writer
There were always times when I longed for the playing fields of my childhood, my mother waiting in the wings, waiting in the blue Lazer after speech and drama lessons or rehearsals for a school play; always, always reminding me that all of life is temporary, waiting with ice-cream, caramel popcorn, drinks that fizzed, melting chocolate bars in the car or driving us sanely to the library where we always had to pay overdue fines on our books as if there was absolutely nothing wrong with the screaming fit she had with my father in their bedroom or the sitting room or any room for that matter filled with a child’s impressionable mind or not filled with a child’s impressionable mind.
To my parents
I do not hate my parents. I do not blame them. They have given me so much, been so generous. I have only realised this now grown up saddled with less insecurities than I was when I younger and thinner. When I was a teenager, they still loved me. When I got sick and hospitalised, they still loved me even though I turned their world upside down and that of my siblings. I wasn’t self-conscious of that me. The me who thought she was a knockout smart alec. I fell hard for depression. Who knew feeling sorry for yourself could be so sweet, could make you feel as if precious time stood still, battling, wrestling for survival, for silence, who knew that noise in the television room could make you tremble and shiver, that you could wake up in the middle of the night and wish you could never go back to sleep.
What made me grab the black crayon before anyone else got to it in occupational therapy? Because it just felt so comforting in my hand like warm, wet sand as if I were a child again with a plastic spade and bucket on the beach under the watchful eyes of my parents who weren’t on speaking terms and had just had a flaming row before you left the house. I was bronzed to perfection and transfixed by the waves but inside the ward smaller and smaller changes are crept over me. I still slept with the light on. I was frustrated because the days seemed longer and at night I cannot get any rest. I have journeyed through pain, frustration and self-discovery wondering what could you master first.
White chalk, white hands, blackboard
There just seem to be words, words and more words. They make you wail, they make you feel so high or dumb and low, drifting into space, so down it feels as if you will never get up again, as if it’s the finale and the curtain’s come down, yes, you have finally crashed and burned for the last time, they’re gutsy, gritty, make you pace the floor up and down, at worst when they have been in the system of your psyche and you’re trying to thread metaphors, similes and phrases together you suddenly decide they’re imperfect. A writer’s work is never done.
Writing about writing
It comes about with paralysis, crossing over estranged borders where family members, relatives lives have snapped. We wait until it happens; for that glorious, joyous moment when we see our name in print. When here see for yourself it is not a lie and many people that we know of, know well of and keep ourselves away from for our own sanity are going to see this and this gives us a momentary thrill. We go from feeling adventurous to alone and waiting for the next seed to grow. This transition leaves many would-be writers bereft or courageous. You’re either one or the other. You have to choose because there is no other way out and although that’s a terrifying thought you have to be brave, think things through positively however bewildered and dim-witted you might feel in this life you now call an abyss.
While the poverty of writing wraps itself around you, you scramble your way out of this cacophonic, schizophrenic mess before it sinks you completely and then you’re really done for and again now. You will never be able you tell yourself to measure up to your previous successes and just one negative reply will give this thought justice. Your work is not good enough you tell yourself.
You are not good enough. You are not Anne Tyler or Ernest Hemingway. Forget that. There is only room, only place for one Anne Tyler and there was only room, only place in this world for one Ernest Hemingway and so many other great writers, alive or in the great beyond. There is only one ‘A moveable feast’. And then your words grope detached and sullenly for ghastly, miserable death, to be imprisoned in melancholy or the elements and pieces of mental illness, still groping for omniscient God, to be led to Christianity, instructions, hard rules, clay, they lust after sunshine, a small room in which to meditate and above all, intensely after they have been scrutinised again and again by beady, glassy eyes to suicide on the page.
There are days when I wear my words as a crown of thorns; when it comes to me as a memory of water against my skin, my wet, flowing hair as if it came naturally out of the tap into the basin; as natural as the living, breathing water in a lake or a river, as a medium’s or clairvoyant’s premonitions of angels. There they are, I say to myself. They have come to me via premonitions of angels and nothing else and I am so thankful, so grateful that they have journeyed so far and have reached their destination all in one piece; piercing the page. Not for one moment do I look back.
© Abigail George December 2010
Email address: abigailgeorge at isat.co.za
Burning in the rain
It is too cold to swim but she takes his hand. It is beach weather but it is still too cold to swim. She knows she is being brave at this point; even her rage is poetic as she feels the world, her world and the information in it blackening around her