Friday, 25 February 2011
Lust to read will never dwindle with a Kindle
Some said it was the end of an era. After five years as Chairman of the Torrevieja Writers' Circle (TWC), I was stepping down. My last day wielding the gavel was Wednesday, 23 February. There were about 28 members in attendance and several apologies. The first half was a normal session of reading and critique, then cakes, buns (thanks to the bakers)and drinks for the halftime period. There followed a presentation of a Kindle, contributed by the members. I was very touched by this thoughtful present. (Some whispered I've been a bit touched for ages, hence the puns...) Mary K (Hasta Luego)and Chris (Woe...)read out poems, which were both appreciated and struck several chords. Several - about 22 stayed behind to eat a menu del dia. A really good day, thank you all!
I finished off with a small 'thank you':
After five years as Chairman, I ask myself, why do we come to the TWC meetings? Presumably, we all like to read – whether books or magazines. Most of us were brought up with a love of books – either imparted by our parents or our teachers. Even in this age of the e-book, books play an important part in our lives. As Cicero said, ‘A room without books is like a body without soul.’
The Canadian-Japanese Professor of English, Samuel Hayakawa said, ‘In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read… It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.’
They’re talking about books. But we aren’t a reading circle. We strive to write. As E L Doctorow said, ‘Planning to write is not writing. Outlining a book is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.’
So it’s the placing of your bum on a chair and writing. No pressure, there then.
Still, as we know – no pressure, no diamonds.
Many of you have written for years and received little or no pecuniary reward, but that doesn’t stop you, nor should it. Richard Bach, who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, says, quite rightly, ‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.’
So, if it isn’t for the financial reward, why do we write? Is it because we must? Katherine Mansfield said, ‘Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.’ Maybe we want to make sense of the world, or understand ourselves, our past. Indeed, the life of every person is like a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.
I think I’ve used this quotation from O Henry before, but make no apology for using it again: "A good story is like a bitter pill, with the sugar coating inside of it."
Maybe that’s it: we just like telling stories! To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything. Of course, you don’t have to rely on imagination; you can reminisce about your past. You don’t have to write fiction. You can write memoirs and poems, rants and articles. It doesn’t matter, really, so long as you write. You write to be read, however. You write for an audience, even if that’s an audience of one or the circle members only. You don’t write for praise, though it’s always welcome. You write to affect others, to raise a laugh, stir an emotion, elicit a tear. You don’t write to slavishly copy your favourite authors. Each one of us is unique, and we see the world and humanity in different ways. The secret is that in our writing we invite the reader to see the world – our imagined world – as we see it.
In my five years of Chairmanship, I’ve been privileged to listen to a vast array of writing from the TWC members – poems that made me think or cry, stories that made me laugh and empathise, articles that made me see some aspect of life with a fresh eye. Many of you have already done it, but I would recommend that in your writing, make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
Thank you for putting up with my terrible puns over the years. I’ll miss banging my gavel, and inevitably I’ll miss several gems that will be read out in future meetings, since I will no longer be a regular attendee. However, to use a final quotation, in the immortal words of the Terminator, ‘I’ll be back.’