Learning from living without writing

It’s been a little over four months since I last posted anything to this blog. It’s been a little longer than that since I wrote any fiction.

This was not an omission on my part. In the Spring it seemed to me that I was spending too much time escaping into my head and not enough time living, so I set my keyboard aside and waited to see what would happen.

I’ve been on vacation twice: the first time to stay with friends in Andalusia, the second time to revisit the Tuscan hills. I’ve been to my brother-in-law’s wedding which was a wonderful event, filled with happiness and I’ve been to the funeral of my wife’s Aunt, which was sad but still, in its way, a celebration.

I’ve managed to be home more and to spend more time with my wife. The more time I spent, the stranger it seemed to me that I should have arranged my life so that I’ve spent so much time away.

I’ve still escaped into my head, but this time as a reader. I’ve read a couple of dozen books and listened to Stephen Fry read the first five Harry Potter books.

Behind all of this action and distraction, I’ve had a growing sense that my life is about to change; needs to change. It’s become clearer and clearer to me that what I want is time to be with my wife, to do simple things together, to travel to new places and revisit old favourites, to reach out more and find people to connect to who have nothing to do with work or making money.

I’m reasonably good at my job. I’ve been doing it for a long time and mostly I enjoy it, but it doesn’t provide me with a reason to get up in the morning, although I would miss some of the people and perhaps even the opportunity to visit different countries and companies and see how people do things there.

I’m aware that my emotions have been trying to send me a message. I still get angry too easily and enjoy it too much. I cry at sad books and films and find a surprising number of them sad. Was Harry Potter really so sad the first time I read it? I want to get better at happiness. I want to grasp it firmly, like cold fingers around a hot coffee-cup, extracting its warmth and savouring its presence. I want to be more loving. I want to be someone I would like. I want to make my wife happy, just by being with her.

And, it turns out,  I want to write.

In the past four months I have sometimes felt as if a part of me was missing because I wasn’t writing.

Without writing, my thoughts slip through my fingers so fast that they are more like dreams than real ideas or reactions.

Without writing, the voices that would otherwise spark stories, become fainter, or perhaps I simply become deaf to them.

So I’ve decided to start writing again, without giving up on the living part.

Yesterday, I drove home from Munich (500+ kilometres or 300+ miles) listening to an audiobook version of John Irving’s “Last Night In Twisted River” and one of the characters (not a particularly nice one) quoted ,Rilke, a rather intense Austrian poet who adopt the French-speaking part of Switzerland as his home, who once wrote: “If one feels that one could live without writing, then one shouldn’t write at all.”

The idea seems to be that writing, a lonely, isolating process that turns people into observers of life rather than participants, is not to be recommended as a path to happiness for most people.

I suspect this is true.

I’ve also learnt, over the past four months, that while I do need to live and love more, I will always need a way of siphoning off the noise in my head and exercising my imagination by writing.

So I’ve come back here to make a start at it.

I look forward to seeing where it will take me.


4 thoughts on “Learning from living without writing

  1. Welcome back, Mike. I’m looking forward to reading whatever you feel moved to write!
    (And, speaking as an American, no one can compare to Jim Dale as a narrator of the Harry Potter books!)


    • Thank you. Now Jim Dale sounds like an excellent choice but Fry is definitively English and understands all those perculiarly English nuances in Rowling’s books (I love that his Dumbledore pronounces “Certainly” as chertainly with the soft ch of a Latin scholar.


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