On Writing

Writing with the samovar

I noticed at some point in my mid-twenties that the words on the pages of my notebooks were different to the words I spoke aloud. I preferred the ones in my notebook.

Written in the safety of silence they had a direct quality I trusted.  I loved writing but never seriously considered the vocation of the writer…

until one day sitting in the university library, I had to hide my tears and burning cheeks behind a hard back copy of Marina Tsvetaeva’s biography. How it was possible for her to have experienced so much trauma and yet to have written with such passion; how did Mikhail Bulgakov, despite the threat of oppression create stories of such immense compassion, and how indeed, did Anna Akhmatova find the strength to build a fortress of her words for others to take rest in. Such days as theirs would make any simple man a hero, and yet of the writer it was expected to sacrifice all, bearing the torch of light to freedom with a pen.

Russia introduced me to the fate of the writer. The power of the word however, I encountered later, in the Altai Mountains. In Altai the word is mystery, something precious to be held carefully like an egg. Those who write are thought channels to dimensions of higher knowledge, and the physicality of the book still evokes awe, as ritual objects do. In Altai, I lived in a house built by a blacksmith and prophesier. Legend has it that he had ‘sudur bichik’, ‘sacred text’ which he wrapped in silk and hid in the mountains before the Soviets came.

I made friends with a young Altai woman, a writer and journalist. She called me by the name ‘Pure Moon’ and I called her by the name ‘Black Pearl’. One day, when we were sharing secrets under the sky she told me, that some people have a book inside of them. Some people, she said, suffer more than others in life and their suffering makes them wise. Gradually, their experiences write text in the book they carry in their soul. This is why people turns to them in time of need because they have a page for everyone.

I realized as she spoke, that we all have words that only we can speak and if left unspoken are deprived to the world forever. Perhaps, it doesn’t matter what we write today and what we write tomorrow, but rather, that over a lifetime all the words carried in our own unique soul be shared with others in such a way that spirit can hear them.

When I write, I think to the editor-being who sits over my soul, marking pages with leather bookmarks where text should be…

One response to “On Writing

  1. You write beautifully and movingly Joanna, and perhaps you may publish a book that is a compilation of all your stunning posts. Don’t stop writing …

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