I love writing. That’s probably a prerequisite if you have a blog, but I really love writing. Because I love it so much, I have wondered why that is. And which better way to explore that question than by writing about it? So, welcome to another Why episode!
I started writing in my teens. Inspired by reading Stephen King and motivated by a creative writing sequence in school, I attempted to write my own stories. Naturally, they were horror stories since my first motivation for writing was to recreate what I loved reading so much. It was fun trying the same (I even used the same character names) and my teacher liked it too. Until I was stupid enough to copy the plot of a whole novel and condensed it into a terrible two-page story that didn't make a lot of sense. What I learned from that is that writing is much more effective if you try your own thing.
So I tried that. I wrote some short stories and published them in the school's paper, and people liked them, probably because they were bloody. They weren't that bad, I'd say, but nothing special. I was still aping King and my next project proved that. I wrote a 60-page novel called "The Color of Dreams", in which a boy finds a machine that makes his dreams come true. He uses it to get the girl he loves, but it corrupts him and disaster ensues. It was definitely not a great book (and, I realized later, a rip-off of Christine), but I was so proud to have written so much. It also showed me that you can use writing to deal with your personal issues. I wrote about being in love because that’s what I always cared about. I wrote stories about all my fears that had kept me awake as a child. Writing about what you fear and care about can make you a little bit stronger in the real world. Unless your father comes along and crushes your dreams. Here’s the thing: my father got me into books which got me into writing, naturally I wanted to impress him with my writing too. But he hated horror stories and couldn’t even praise me for my efforts. He just didn’t like it. I mean, it wasn’t very good, but I was 15, which is not the age where you need to hear from your father that your first novel is crap. To his credit, he still supported my writing because some time later, he got me into a little creative writing seminar with an author (Rüdiger Heins, man, I’m happy to have found out his name after 18 years!).
This seminar marks my next phase in writing. He was a very good teacher and took to me because most of his students were elderly people who wrote poems and autobiographies. A sixteen-year-old who wants to write horror novels was a change of pace. But what I learned from him the most is that you have to open your mind to other stories and experiments. I learned about writing poetry and free writing, and I enjoyed that a lot. He had a big influence on my desire to write and gave me the support I didn’t get from my father. In his seminar I wrote the beginning to another, epic horror novel (tentatively called Shadows), which opened with a rabbit that was swallowed by a shadow. I liked that opening, but the book never saw its ending because I quickly got lost in plotting, finding chapter names, finding quotes for chapters and basically rewriting my teenage life the way I wanted it to be. The book never worked, because I was focused on the wrong things. It wasn’t really about writing anymore. It was also the last horror story I attempted. In a way, as much as he inspired me, failing at this second novel was the end of my writing career for a long time. I admitted that I just wasn’t able to write a book or stories. I started so many things, plays, other novels, screenplays, but it was all for nothing.
One thing my teacher did was to basically force me to read that opening chapter in front of an audience. That was a weird but also enlightening experience because I at least felt like an author. That was nice. One man pointed out to me that rabbits probably don’t sweat, so maybe this was already a sign for the doom of that story.
Some years later I decided to take part in a writing competition, thinking that maybe I could still become a writer after all. I wrote a short story called The Moon about a man who realizes his life is wasted and he just followed society’s rules, ignoring his real feelings. It wasn’t really subtle, but it showed me a direction where writing could go, in actually trying to make people think. Again, this wasn’t the best attempt at this and I feel a little bit more embarrassed about that story than about my horror stories, but the intent is still very relevant. I didn’t win, of course, and my father didn’t like it unsurprisingly, or, what was worse, he said he didn’t even understand it. I didn’t write anything else for years after that.
What I did, though, was to become a teacher. And I said to myself, just because I wasn’t made to be a writer doesn’t mean I can’t teach others something about it. Therefore, creative writing became a fixed item on my teaching schedule. I had (and have) students write stories, playing with story elements, writing poetry, working on poetry slams and doing two week-long projects solely for aspiring writers. I very much enjoy this because I think I’m actually good at helping people who want to write and pointing them the way. It also always enables me to write myself, because often when they get a writing task, I join them, both to show them how it could be done, but also just because I like the writing so much. Sometimes I’m happy with what I write, but just the process alone is exciting enough.
Now comes the twist of my writing story. In 2011 I started to co-lead a drama group at my school, directing a very modern version of The Crucible. I enjoyed that immensely, mainly because I was able to put so much creative energy into it. Some months before we had to decide on another play, I was at a Thermals concert and an inspiration hit me like lightning: the image of a class and there and then I decided to write the next play myself. Over the course of four weeks during the summer holidays I wrote Here’s Your Future, a play that criticized and made fun of our school system. It basically wrote itself and, man, this was writing! I thought to myself that maybe I should have tried writing a play earlier because it’s much easier to finish. Anyway, I was happy with the result (and still am, despite some things I’d change now) and everyone who read it liked it. Well, except my superiors at school (and my father who didn’t bother to read it, even after I put it right in his hands – is he the villain now?). The story of getting that play on stage is a long and insane one, which I might tell some other time (and I always say I could write a book about it – or another play). But I loved writing it and rewriting it during rehearsals. I was inspired to write more plays and had some ideas, but then something happened. The play evidently was so dangerous that after all was said and done I was taken off the drama group. The danger of me making people think about our school system was so big, that it was decided not to risk it anymore (again, long story). So, I was sitting there with all my ideas for new plays and suddenly I didn’t have a place to use them anymore. Until today, over two years later, I didn’t write more than some bits of dialogue, because I wouldn’t know what to do with a finished play. But I can’t imagine never doing theater again, so I somehow know my ideas will find their home at some point. The important thing here is that I wrote something and I liked it and people got to see it. Even if it was just for a year, I was a writer.
So, as this story repeated itself and I stopped writing after reaching a certain high point in my imaginary writing career for the second time, I saw Noam Chomsky in May this year and I was as inspired as I had been since this Thermals concert. I wanted to do something with that inspiration and somehow I wanted to write something. My students encouraged me and one of them said: “You should write another critical play!” Which is not what I did, but somehow this comment was the first step to starting this blog. I just recently told again how and why exactly I started on the blog’s 100th post anniversary, so I won’t tell it again. What’s important to me here is that the blog allows me to write. Every day (although I don’t post daily anymore, time’s just too short) I get to write about something I care about, something that inspires me, something that makes me angry and always something that makes me think. It’s not creative writing (well, most of the time), but it is writing and I love it. I love letting my fingers fly over the keyboard, I love figuring out how to start and finding just the right way into each post, I love seeing something develop that I only discover through my writing (and, no, not every post works that well and, no, I don’t love seeing all the mistakes I make later, after I posted it already). Just as with Here’s Your Future I managed to get past the initial inspiration and actually got somewhere. It’s not just another unfinished beginning. I don’t care if my father ever reads it. I’m not rewriting my life to make it better. It is me, my feelings, my thoughts, my fears, my mistakes. It incorporates everything I love about writing.