Hi, my name is Charlie and I am a writer.
This moment feels as heady as I imagine it would be to stand up and concede you are an alcoholic. (I’m not, by the way. An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks just as much as you do, apparently)
No. I am ending a double life. I’m coming out as a writer.
The truth is, I have always written and always tended to hide it.
Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. The fact they will all criticise and laugh at me.
Who are they?
I don’t know. The imagined ‘them’. My family and friends. Strangers. Colleagues. Students. People I met a long time ago, people I’m yet to meet.
I wrote compulsively as a kid – journalling, short stories, poems and books. I wrote angsty teenage personal and reflective pieces. I write long form and dabbled. In secret, for the most part.
I fell in love with the idea of being a tortured artist and bought endless notebooks and pens. I wanted a black turtleneck. I fell in love with black ink on white paper. A couple of years ago, I got into fountain pens. Stationery is my dirty obsession. I figure it is less harmful than heroin or meth, so who cares?
Like so many people with double lives, I created alter egos and nom de plumes to protect me from the filthy shame of being a writer.
Also, as a teacher, I wanted to keep my writing life separate from my teaching life. Not for nefarious reasons, but because I didn’t want them to know I was a person outside the confines of respectable professionalism.
I wrote about travel. I wrote about current events and life and all the issues of getting through it. I tried to be funny. I tried to figure out all the existential stuff, make a record of the delving into all the compelling and weird questions I had about the world.
I have a curious mind – and I was ashamed of it. I burned to know why – to explore the world and humanity and strive to understand why we do what we do. But I thought the world didn’t want me to be that. Gee, I wasted a lot of time living all the other people’s expectations I’d imagined and gleaned.
I wrote about sport. I wrote about how terrible I was at dating. I posed and explored deep socratic questions like, what would happen to a squirrel with a nut allergy? Why do people cheer at sporting events when the attendance is shown, but get angry in a traffic jam?
In creating alter egos, I was able to write and publish and get the itch scratched. But I never really found my own voice, I suppose, living through the frame of some made up person in order to protect myself from some horrible fate, largely imagined.
Now, in middle age, the yearning to write is as strong as ever even though the shame and fear of getting it out there also persists. To this end, no one has seen my writing for some time. My girlfriend is suspicious and a little annoyed by my reluctance to share it.
That needs to change. Not for everyone else, but for myself and my own integrity.
Over the last few years, as time passed and mortality crept into my thoughts like a menacing, creepy voyeur, I have been thinking about the missing pieces of the puzzle. What would I like to do more of?
Writing always came back. Indeed, it never really left, but I was terrified of confronting it.
So now I have made a decision to start writing and publishing under my own name. It is a terrifying move. Seriously, I am bricking it.
This is me walking the walk and returning, in some ways, to something I have always done and always really enjoyed.
As to what it will be? What will I write about? Well, over the last few years I have gradually stoked the ashes of my dormant curiosity about the world and passion for learning.
The flames have returned, and I managed to formulate something of a mission statement for getting through the rest of whatever I have left of this gift of time and consciousness and agency.
To nourish and share a curious mind so that we might honour the gift
So that is what this is. Feel free to drop by whenever you fancy. I’ll be here.