The Joys of Writing

Somewhat into my 50s, I sit down in front of the computer one evening and start looking back. My fingers dance on the keys forming words on the screen — yes, I am a writer, and in some manner I have always been a writer and story-teller since I mastered the craft of handling letters at the age of 5. I started reading science fiction when I was 8 years old (Jules Verne and Robert Heinlein in Swedish translations) and one year later I penned my first SF story as a school essay. When I was 14 I tried writing a novel, a pastiche à la The Prisoner of Zenda; it was failure and never got completed, but somewhere in our home lies a bundle of school notebooks (the classic ones with dark blue covers) with this tale of adventure and war in the 1890s.

And this road goes ever on, to paraphrase Tolkien. I am not the first wordsmith in the family, I have been told. My father’s father, who passed away long before I was born, made an art of writing clever and complex rhymed riddles on Christmas gifts (a Swedish tradition), poking fun at the gift and its recipient.

But unlike anyone else in the clan, I seem to be the first one to make a living out of writing. Well, I am not speaking of my fiction, but most of my professional life I have been writing non-fiction: games, media analyses, technical documents, magazine articles on science subjects (popular science, not research), books and reports on UN peacekeeping, press releases, etc. I am did not consciously seek this career. It just turned out that I had a particular skill and put it to use. I grabbed the assignments within reach and convinced those that pay my salary that I would be doing a good job.

And I enjoy doing it. The thoughts swirl in my mind and form sentences by themselves. It does not matter whether I use Swedish or English, it just happens. English may not be my mother tongue, but somehow I have taken it to my heart and made into my “other” native language. Interestingly, I write (and probably think) in somewhat different ways with the two languages. My English tends to be more to the point, whereas my Swedish is more embellished.

Well, I remember reading a Steinbeck novel when I was young. Its protagonist was a man of my current age. And he thought he was seeing “the end of the race”. Life had gone from summer to autumn, so to speak. There are days when I feel like that, too. Then time becomes precious and I ponder on how to use the remaining 15-20 years of professional life. There are so many stories I want to tell, but which are the ones that would grab the attention of others. I don’t want to waste those limited months and years. I do not write for the desk drawer — I am a story-teller.

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