Category: Writing

The Son of the Sun

Heart tempered by the fire that burns within, the youth ventures out into the gloom of night. Ominous clouds have breathed in the sky and no stars dance on this night, only shadows in the corners of those weary eyes. Unperturbed and at brisk pace he arrives at the banks across which his supposed sire slumbers. A thousand bright eyes and another thousand fuming nostrils greet him across the black void.

“Beast, hear my words!” he roars into the nothingness. “If thy blood truly fills my veins, then grant me one wish.”

The eyes seem to eerily sharpen upon his slender frame.

“End this subjugation of spirit,” he says  “allow me to shine my own sun, and to give shelter to others like you do to your subjects.”

From the depth of his unconsciousness comes the answer: Impudent whelp! What if you crash and burn?

Not as words, but such a primal feeling of fear and dread that tears well up in the young boys eyes. He steels his heart, and replies with resolution: “I shall not fail you, but if so, give me to the heavens, so that I may shine my meagre light were you cannot, and aid other travellers in the dark of night.”

The youth kneels and softly utters: “Please grant me this wish, for you are my father, and my glory is yours.”

The Fall of Phaeton at the Bode Museum in Berlin

I went to Berlin recently, and fortunately was in cultured company, so that the opportunity to visit one of the exquisite museums of the city was not wasted. There, I stumbled upon an absolutely fabulous marble statue depicting the fall of Phaeton, which really moved me. A few weeks earlier, I had written somewhat of an epic poem (albeit a short one, hence the “somewhat”.) In the end I decided to merge this draft with the myth of Phaeton.

As for the results, well, you can be the judge. I wrote it because I enjoyed doing so and hope to improve by practice. Constructive criticism is welcome, sincere (if possible) praise more so, and anything else will duly be ignored. 🙂

Until next time.



How to Enjoy Writing?

Recently, I have been asking myself this question a lot. At first glance it seems pointless – if you want to write, odds are you enjoy it, no? Actually, it turns out to be more complicated than that, and even most successful authors seem to have little clue.

I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way, there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are surely destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of clichés that no sane human could read without vomiting. But when you’re in the zone, spinning words like plates, there’s a deep sense of satisfaction and, yes, enjoyment… – Hari Kunzru

How depressing does that sound!? It seems that the faster writers do a novel a year, and much longer than that is not uncommon either. Surely there must be much to be gained, like increased efficiency and, uhm well, actual enjoyment, by understanding yourself and what makes you be “in the zone.” I love writing, and greatly enjoyed writing even the most inane post on this blog. Heh, come to think of it, enjoyment might be correlated to inanity!

But it is another matter when it comes down to writing short stories or novels. Starting isn’t too difficult, when the muse graces you, the fingers naturally reach for the keyboard and start hitting the keys. What is more difficult is how to deal with getting stuck, originality, and the nagging self-doubt, i.e. the would-anyone-want-to-read-this-crap syndrome.

Now, I am certainly nothing of an authority on the matter, just a kid with a dream. Yet, putting my thoughts, research, and related personal experiences into words might help me, and perhaps others like me.

Why is writing something “serious” so difficult?

I think the most important point here is in the title: You have to enjoy the process of writing! Don’t trust me? Take it from someone who actually knows something on the matter:

… it seems to me that the very first requirement is that a person have a passion for the process of writing. – I. Asimov

Isaac Asimov was a hugely successful writer of science fiction, non-fiction, and history, having written or edited over five hundred books. He elaborates:

I have that passion. I would rather write than do anything else. In fact, some wise guy, knowing of my penchant for gallantry to young women, asked me during a question-and-answer session once, “If you had to choose between writing and women, Dr. Asimov, which would you choose?”

I answered instantly, “Well, I can type for twelve hours without getting tired.”

So, first of all, pick something you actually like to write about (duh!)

The next major hurdle is probably the self-doubt. Let me quote the second canto of The Divine Comedy which inspired me to write this post:

As one who unwills what he wills, will stay
strong purposes with feeble second thoughts
until he spells all his first zeal away-

I have yet to find an aspect of life where self-doubt has any use whatsoever. Learning Japanese, fearing that mistakes will cause misunderstandings, or the slow pace of conversation will make people bored leads only to a reluctance to talk. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is not going to help improve your oral production abilities. This realisation has killed my self-doubt in this regard for good, and my Japanese has improved tremendously as a result, even if it is still dotted with grievous (read: hilarious) errors.

In human relations, especially the dating game, everything falls apart if you lose confidence. There are few things more telling that someone isn’t worth your time if they don’t believe themselves that they are. Moreover, everybody feels some degree of self-doubt, and one of the major things you look for in a friend or partner is support. People who radiate strength are probably the ones able to catch you before falling into the abyss of despair, right? On a significantly more vulgar note, let me quote the arrogant, disgusting, but oh-so-funny Tucker Max:

Women want to fuck men whom other women want to fuck. – Tucker Max on Women

I’m certainly not going to argue for the generality of that – hell, I’d probably turn rather turn gay if it was universally applicable – but it does contain a kernel of truth. Many people do not judge others by their own standards, but on how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others. Frankly, I consider such people mindless sheep and generally avoid them. If you are a friend of mine, rest assured, you are not in this category!

Anyhow, back to writing. The good doctor orders:

A prolific writer, therefore, has to have self-assurance. He can’t sit around doubting the quality of his writings. Rather, he has to love his own writing. – Isaac Asimov

His words resonates with me and my own experiences, yet I am unsure of how to reach such a state. The realisation that it is useless has helped me little when it comes to writing, maybe because it is such an intensely personal process that criticism would hit a lot harder than in most other situations? For example, I couldn’t care less about what people outside my circle of close friends think about me as a person. There are billions of people in the world you know, expecting everybody to like you defies the laws of statistics! If you love yourself and don’t intentionally hurt others – who cares what people think?

I have taken that attitude to my blog now. Honestly, I don’t care if anyone reads this, because I enjoyed writing it for no one’s sake than my own. Yet, merely imagining someone calling my serious writing “pretentious garbage” (hah, probably no accident I imagine those words) pisses me off. Maybe it is because I build up too high expectations for the output? Probably everyone’s first novel is godawful, even Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t learn in a day for crying out loud. Like everything in life, writing undoubtedly has a learning curve – insisting on calling them “failures” is just skewing reality to fit preconceived notions of what is possible and what is not, no?

As always comments are welcome!