“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” ― Winston S. Churchill
For those of you who don’t know much about me: my name is Cristian Mihai, I am 27 years old, live in Constanta, Romania, and I have been writing for over fourteen years. Also, I do enjoy long walks (on the beach or not) and I have been blogging for more than six years.
But how did I become a writer? How did I decide to be one? What steps did I take? What happened along the way? Why didn’t I quit? What made me keep on keeping on when all hope seemed to be lost?
Well, it was a dark and stormy night. No, I’m just kidding. It wasn’t stormy, but it was night. And it was dark, obviously. And it was snowing.
I was with my mother, we were taking a bus home. This I remember clearly. And an idea came to me. It just did. Appeared out of thin air or something. Like that light bulb that turns on over a character’s head in a cartoon. An idea for a novel.
I didn’t like reading very much, but I did enjoy making stuff up as a kid. I was still a kid. And I said to myself, “This is actually a good idea. I am going to write about it. Writing isn’t that hard.”
Unless you’re illiterate.
And, yes, writing isn’t hard at all. If you have no idea what you’re doing.
I had no idea what I was doing.
But I wrote. And I wrote. And then I wrote some more. And then I decided to share one of my short stories with a bunch of people on an online forum, and everyone said it was the worst thing ever written. Someone said I was either a retard or fourteen years old.
This made me angry. In the sense that, maybe deep down I knew they must be right about my writing, but I also wanted to prove them wrong, because they had told me to find something else to do.
I advertise perseverance on this blog as if it’s some sort of wonder drug. Mostly because I have witnessed less than average individuals accomplish great things by the simple act of perseverance.
When I was fifteen or so, I read some 163 books in a year. I was so proud. I had yet to discover the opposite sex (or fun, or anything else), so writing and reading was all I had. All I did whenever I had some free time.
If you push yourself to become good at something, and you become obsessed with it, and go all in, then you can become good in a relatively short amount of time.
When I was seventeen I was considered one of the most promising young writers of my generation. Of course, I was writing in Romanian, and that makes for a less impressive market or audience, but still… lots of praise, lots of accomplished writers wanting to meet me, some awards, and being able to do pretty much what I wanted in high school.
What do you think happened?
I became hubris. Stopped writing. Stopped taking writing seriously. I thought it was too easy. I thought I was too good. That Nobel Prize was mine. No worries. All I had to do was stroll my fingers over a keyboard and pure magic would appear on a computer screen.
It doesn’t work like that.
Soon, I stopped writing altogether. Hormones and stuff happened. Don’t know, exactly. My family was kind of rich, so I just allowed myself to do what all the other spoiled brats did. Parties and stuff. I’m vague on the details because it feels like a dream from another life.
Writers are funny creatures. They live many, many lives, become different people, and change, and then rediscover someone they used to be years back and feel as if they’d want to recover that self, but they can’t. They meet some former self, kept prisoner by mere words in some story long forgotten, and it feels as if reading about a stranger.
Friends who read my novels and stories feel as if they never met me.
Strangers who read my novels and stories feel as if they somehow know me.
None of it is true, of course.
Writers are simply a bunch of people trying, I mean really trying, trying so damn hard, so, so hard… to be just one person. To act normal. They’d like to be someone else every single day.
Anyway. Back to the story. My story. The story of me.
So, when my father went bankrupt, and he told me that there was no more money, no more parties, no nothing, I was devastated. I’ll spare you the gory details, but a lot of stuff happened. Pain and health issues and heartbreak and all that. Isolation. Depression. The kind of things that seem to be rather usual these days. Like an epidemic of self-loathing. Feeling lost. Inhabiting a body that feels disconnected from the soul. Or is it the other way around? Whatever. Living in a futureless world ensures that you do not feel the need to plan ahead more than twenty four hours.
Life was a struggle. I remember that. It hurt. It revolted me. Not having money, not being able to eat properly, or do the stuff I wanted to do, or go to college, or have a girlfriend. Go out with friends. Have friends.
Something broke inside me. I don’t know what it is, where it went, how important that piece was. But whatever was left spent an awful lot of time missing it.
I started writing again. You see, words are the weapon of choice of the powerless. The oppressed and the downtrodden. The black sheep. The rebels. The ones who have no real power, and thus they write about imaginary worlds in order to escape the one they cannot change.
Playing at God is a nice way to forget about the fact that you are no one in particular in the real world.
I managed to convince myself that writing was the only thing that I could do. Anything else didn’t matter. Didn’t have energy for much. I tried self-publishing in January 2011, and failed. Sold four books in four months. Tried blogging and quit after 3 posts and no feedback whatsoever. But then I got up and tried again. It’s just what I did. I never listened to motivational talks or read self-help books.
It was the only thing I knew to do. Somehow. That is debatable, right? Whatever. I thought that I was going to die alone, that I was probably going to die poor. A proper starving artist. But that I would write. That some of my words would endure, would live on, that even after my bones would have turned to dust, someone would still carry a paperback copy of one of my novels.
I do not recommend this kind of mindset. I have spent a lot of time trying to convince people to adopt a different one, because this… yes, it does make you write. A lot. It does make you write more and more, and it does give you the kind of internal fortitude that is required to write for three days straight. But, at the same time, it does make you feel useless in almost all other areas of life.
I should have died. In all honesty, I tell you this. That’s how I felt. Defeated in a way that there seemed to be no way out. Yet two things saved me: writing, and the fact that I am born on Christmas Day and everyone kept telling me when I was a kid that I was destined for great things.
I decided that I would never be my own executioner. Yes, I do not like the word suicide very much. I try not to use it. Or write it. Or even think about it.
I decided that I was going to die writing. That there would simply come a day when I couldn’t get out of bed, and then… that was it. Bright light and angels and whatever. Or maybe not.
I honestly didn’t expect people to read my words, let alone like them. I have still to get used to this. Maybe one never gets used to it; to the fact that one’s words matter to another human being.
But I am certain that my words matter. To me. They always have, always will. And I am going to write, one way or another, until they plant me in the ground and throw dirt on top of me.