reading leads to writing

Summer holidays are no different than New Year’s Eve : you make resolutions. I made one today : to read and/or write for a at least two hours per day. Newspapers, magazines, work related papers, emails (private and professional) don’t count. Only reading that is rooted in serendipity counts. What I mean is, books that have found me. And there are many ways in which these creatures can come to me. On the shelf of a bookstore, in the algorithm of my many online shops, through newspapers or mutual friends, through practicing foreign languages. One of my plans is to learn Spanish in order to discover Hispanic literature. Finally there is also this book complot, in which one book leads to another. Somehow books must have their own secret union to lure buyers in and to keep the business alive. I am happy to be an easy victim for many of them.

I love reading and writing and I hope than one day I can make a living out of it.

I have been reading all of my life and it is one of the two things I can’t do without. Can’t live without. The last ten years my ambition has been to read at least fifty books per years. I do include art and exhibition catalogues in the stack. Some years it takes effort but I usually hit the target around December. Sometimes it’s a sprint. This year – we are July 31 today – the teller is already at 51. Twenty years from now I will still associate 2020 with COVID19 and books. There is a clear link between them.

I have also been writing my entire life. For study, for work and for leisure. I started this blog in 2006 and although the stats have gone down considerably I am on my way to celebrate twenty years of blogging. This post will be number 946. With a bit of luck twenty years of blogging and a thousand posts will go hand in hand. Champagne promised ! But this – and the work related stuff I publish – are my public writing. I enjoy as much my private journal, facilitated by DayOne. There is a lot of joy in writing, but as much in rereading. It is like revisiting yourself in earlier times. An earlier version of you.

Making a living out of writing means I will have to share with you, the reader, my most intimate moments.

I could write an essay about why posting on Facebook is not about intimacy, but all about exposure. But let’s keep this for now a statement. It may grow into post 978 in 2022 … Lately I have been drawn to memoirs and essays, probably because both have a lot in common. They are about the me and the rest of the world. A personal view from the writer on herself giving context to her place in the world. Making sense of oneself and all the rest to live a meaningful life. To name just of few of the authors who gave me a glimpse into their lives and views : Dani Shapiro, Alexander Chee, Vivian Gornick, Joan Didion, Deborah Levy, Arthur Japin, Paul Haenen, … You can find the longlist here.

Vivian Gornick in “Unfinished Business : Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader” introduced me to the concept of personal journalism. An internet definition : “Personal Journalism is just as ethical as old-school public journalism. It still values facts, fairness, truth telling and good reporting. It’s just that personal journalism is written differently. It is written from one person, a person we can identify with, for one person”. I have cited her in a previous blogpost.

But is my writing worth reading ? Let alone have people willing to pay for it ?

On the first, yes my writing is worth reading. Isn’t what you are doing now not just a damn good example of it ? One of my defining insights in life is that “everyone is a story”. I wrote some sort of a book about this concept ten years ago, and I am as convinced today as I was then. Everyone is a story and it is worth reading. But it starts with yourself, being aware of the book you are and write each day and be willing to share it with others. My mother sometimes asks me why I don’t write her life story ? True there is more than a portion of drama in it. And I will weave her story into mine, once I start my memoirs, which – by the way – will be the memoirs of plenty of others. Will I have to ask for consent to family, friends, husband and past lover(s) ? During my last visit to my parental home, my mother gave me a bundle of letters my father (+ 1968) wrote to her. I haven’t yet started them, because I need focus and serenity to start them.

On the second, yes our stories – yours and mine – are worth reading, but people won’t necessary start paying for it. Does it matter ? A well know podcast host lately learned me “never, ever think you will make a living as a creative”. Point taken. The pleasure is in the writing not in the check.

Think with the senses, feel with the mind.

During my first visit to the Venice Biennale of Art I was flabbergasted by the tagline of that 2007 edition. It changed my life and is still a mantra guiding me today. The senses say I have to write, the mind says I have to prepare for the writing life. My mind says to follow my gut feeling.

I just need time. Reserve that two hours per day and I need a muse. A picture of Vivian Gornick could do the trick, together with this 2007 memory.

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