When I was about 12 I was asked by one of my friends at school if I had a blog. At the time, like MySpace and Bebo, it seemed like one of the online properties it was compulsory to have. I didn’t, and I justified it by saying that it was like having a diary, but one that anyone could read. The idea sounded completely anathema to me. I had nothing of worth to offer the world.
But writing for writing’s sake is in my blood. Despite not wanting to write about myself online, writing was one of the biggest pleasures of my 12 to 16-year-old life. I filled notebooks with scratchings. I wrote a ten-page story for a creative writing club and stumbled over the first page aloud.
I wrote one novel, and then another. I got my mum to print them off in her office and carried the manuscripts around, marking things with a red pen, getting strange looks at lunch break and on the public bus. I had mind maps of each character’s personality on my bedroom walls (but no band posters).
Nine years after I wrote anything about the characters in those novels, I can remember their body language, their expressions, their accents. They are flimsy Mary Sues, but their faces are so familiar to me. I don’t think anyone else has ever read them all the way through.
That passion for writing waned during sixth form, but it didn’t go away, and when I was at university, I wrote a novel each year for NaNoWriMo. During the first and third novels in particular, the fire came back into my fingers. I sat in the library, or on the bus, or in lectures, and I wrote 3,000 words an hour.
All three of those stories are varying degrees of junk, but they’re mine. I created them from my mind, and I finished them. The number of people who’ve read any of them could be counted on one hand.
I also became head of the Warwick Writing Society, teaching other people how to write and gritting my teeth as it came to me reading out my work each session.
When I finished uni and went travelling with the money I’d saved from working in a pub, doing an internship programme, and inheriting some money, I got the fire in my fingers back again. This time, while I am still not writing for anyone, I was writing in a place that people could see.
(I am not one of those privileged bellends who feels that going travelling is a right; that it’s necessary in order to ‘find yourself’, or that the world owes you a living or a good time. One day I will write about this, and it will tie in all the thoughts I have on this subject from the four years I’ve been thinking about it.)
Starting with “I’m here and safe; lol, apparently you can’t take bodies on the Delhi Metro, what”, I started to settle in to writing the truth about my life. I was proud of what I wrote. And there was never any dearth in inspiration — only times when my fingers cramped from typing it all on a tiny smartphone keyboard.
I must have written tens of thousands of words in India, trying to make sense of what I was seeing, trying to record how this all made me feel, and — in several posts — writing a love letter to the country.
I have become more confident with my writing over time, and I have also become more comfortable with the performative aspect of writing. But I still don’t write for anyone. I write for me. It’s in my blood. In my heart.