Donna Tartt, quietly stylish author of The Secret History, once said that “if there’s no fun for the writer, then there’s no fun for the reader.”
Her rhetoric and her work have inspired me of late. I’ve found myself pondering this statement. I’ve found myself pondering her wonderful stories. I’ve had to go back and reread my favourite parts. Find again that feeling that one can only achieve from prose that thrills.
Will I ever be this good? I ask myself. I suppose it isn’t up to me to decide.
These are the sort of thoughts I have after I complete my day job. Maybe I’ll do some sport, or I’ll do the rereading I mentioned. I’ll inevitably tousle my hair and wonder if this is indeed my life in the evenings. Then like now, I’ll write, and I’ll think some more. A secret exposure of my soul that’s generally all for me.
I’ll think how I’m sat right here, staring at my screen. This screen – I recognise that it’s also very much your screen you know – for you are the one reading my words now. You are the one absorbing my thoughts and making them your own. You are the one judging me for yourself. You are the one who deserves entertaining.
I suppose in many ways that’s what this game is. Entertaining. Not unlike that thrill I got from rereading Tartt. It’s something I seek to emulate and achieve.
This emulation however, must be by my own agenda. Whether that be accomplished via simple creative musings or complex stories, or indeed through the sheer streams of consciousness that can make up an inspired narrative, I will endeavour to stimulate curiosity, attention, and excitement. It’s one of the ways I have fun in my life, and it’s one of the reasons I really look up to Tartt. With luck, we all win and you’re entertained and enthralled too. Maybe you’re even emotional.
But you might at this point be wondering why I’ve opened this piece in the way that I have.
Where Sam, are you taking me?
Where indeed am I taking you? I ask myself.
Meandering paragraphs about writing, twisted words that don’t seem to divulge much of anything.
Why Sam? Why do you write in such streams?
Well I have a confession to make, and I didn’t know how to write about it at first. It’s just that I’ve been struggling to write, more than ever. Not that dramatic I know, but a personal struggle nonetheless.
Sitting quietly on still summer evenings, the stillness of the world and the stillness of my body were all that felt familiar. I wished for the mind to work but it refused, the proverbial parchment lying empty, and my hand unmoved. It wasn’t for a lack of love for “the art”. There were tales to tell and I just couldn’t tell them. I searched for answers somewhere, whether that was out on the bike, or in mind. I even asked my friends. Mostly though, I sat quietly and alone, in rooms that felt large and empty. I thought about how I might fill them and instead filled their atmospheres with emptiness.
I was quite sad but refused to recognise it.
It went on like this. I sought inspiration but somehow found none. I’m not really sure why this was or what I did to deserve such loss, but so it goes and here I am now, writing this whole piece in a manner just shy of forty minutes.
I’ve dwelled and reflected on why I wasn’t writing. Indeed before I sat here to write this, I contemplated the toil in which I spent much of summer. I filled my head with the aches and pains of training. Sport occupied my time and the bike continued to be a saviour. I spent the pedalling wondering how many people really understand themselves or me.
I didn’t tell anyone I was sad. I knew it wouldn’t last. Friends brought smiles to my face. We made memories from June to October that in spite of Covid, I will treasure. Texts from afar could make my day. Some people are more important than others even when I never get to see them.
Times when I felt really great made the world seem like I always want it to seem: full of endless possibility. I was without ideas, but I knew they would come again. Optimism is something I grace myself with by choice.
Ideas though. They are I guess, like flowers in spring. They blossom eventually. Sometimes one is without petals. Without colour. But colour and petals can come back quicker than you expect. I tell myself now that I’ve simply spent these past months watering my soil with moments of hope and happiness where I might otherwise have been solemn. I owe that to a small group of people in and around London, across the pond, and in my imagination.
I am better again. I am better again and maybe it means I’m blossoming. I mean, I’m no sunflower. I’m no daffodil. I’m nobody’s rose. But I want to entertain again, and write again. And I do smile often.
Like Tartt says: you’ve just got to have fun! So here I go, trying to do just that. Remember too, to do it for yourself sometimes. We’re not here for long. We should have our fun when we can.
~ Samuel Hodges, London, December 2020