On writing

At my last primary school class reunion (Slovenians take everything as a party opportunity) my former classmates asked me: “Why don’t you write? You always wrote such nice compositions.”

Last night in one of our talks it came up how I studied English and journalism, after my mom studied English and my father was a journalist. It was the simplest thing to do, you said, and you are right. I didn’t have any better ideas. When I had to send in an application, I was absolutely clueless. There were a lot of things I knew I didn’t want to be, such as a doctor, an economist, a teacher, anything more technical, a policewoman. My high school was a linguistic one but it didn’t give me any profession, I had to continue my studies.

English was not a very hard choice, I’ve always loved it, but the system made me choose a complementary subject, it was not possible to study English alone. When I saw that one of the possibilities was journalism, I took it as a sign. I always loved to write anyway.

In the first writing assignment they sent us, wide-eyed eager rookies, to cover a mountaineering book presentation. I shall hardly ever forget that moment when I produced a rather emotional piece about the gathering of grunge-style shirts (way before the term was invented) in a fancy cultural and event centre, and I got it returned with a fat red strike over most of it. It was not what was required. It was not merely providing answers to questions Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Your example cracked me up. “So a dog bites the owner and the owner dies. So you come over there and interview the dog and ask the man: ‘Are you dead?’ and he says ‘Yes.’ And you ask: ‘For how long?’ and he says ‘For three hours.’ And you say ‘Why??’ And he says: ‘I didn’t let the dog play with the pillow.’”

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The back room wall at Baka’s in Skradin, Croatia, she makes mean rose brandy. Photo: MM

Every time I heard one of my professors tell me that I was already a ready-made journalist, it made me bitter. How damn ready-made can one be to answer five simple questions?? How much talent is required for it? Are you fucking kidding me?? No wonder I never finished the studies. I was not motivated, it was too easy, and also life happened in the shape of my first boy-friend, moving in with him and running an Italian language school with him.

Yes, he was part Italian, and no, I never sat in any of the classes. When my sister hooked up with him on facebook some time ago and told him I was in Tuscany now, he said: “Serves her right! She should have learned the language when she had a chance!”

Later, when I was working at a magazine as an editor/translator/journalist, it was this last that I dreaded the most. I was happy doing everything at once but when my boss started saying: “Next week you are to go there and there and make a piece on this and this…” I started to cringe inside becoming smaller and smaller.

No. Not bothering people again.

I realise now that I’m such an introvert that it is not within my social skills to ask unknown people anything at all, even when they are clearly very happy to talk.

Okay, so I should write books. They are good and don’t cause trouble and I can do it in peace without asking anybody anything, just myself. And I can include as much opinion as I wish.

Except that this is not so easy either. Once I had a conversation with a writing friend, and he gave me advice to write about what I would say to people if I had a chance. The problem is that if I really want to, I say it already.

Now I see there is this thing called NaNoWriMo, a campaign to make you write a novel in a month. I am a little interested but then again not really. It is not inspiring to me to see other people’s word counts. I hate doing things just because somebody tells me to.

And yet I need a kick in the butt, I always have. No matter how useful little writing tricks or advice on publishing and marketing would be, I wish to do it on my own.

So when I look at the way I live, at the scenery and calm surrounding me, at the way stories tend to unfold with a look, at the clouds changing colour and the sea changing shape and strength, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and pinch my proverbial butt.

I already have the life of a writer, I just haven’t realised it yet.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

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The story of the sea. Photo: MM


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