A good friend of mine showed me his weblog today. It’s hidden somewhere on the Internet, only those who know the URL can find it. He writes something on it now and again, sometimes only a dozen words. There is no plot or structure, just thoughts that pop up one moment and might be gone the next. Hardly anyone knows about the blog, and his name isn’t mentioned anywhere.
Reading his pieces made me want to go back to that, too: putting down words in a place nobody visited, but where there was a tiny chance that people stumbled upon them by accident. Staying anonymous, owing no one an explanation.
That is how I started writing my book, with sentences I rewrote dozens of times before even letting anyone know they were there. After reading them one last time, I would nervously place my laptop on my girlfriend’s knees and lie down on my bed, waiting for her to comment. From that moment, my writing was no longer mine alone.
At Crossing Border 2011, I read from my first novel, published six weeks earlier. I stood on the stage, holding my book open at a page of which I had memorised the number beforehand. I knew it was best to stand behind the microphone turned a little to the side, so my hands would have enough room to turn the pages without knocking over the mic stand. When I knew the ending of a sentence by heart, I tried to look at the audience.
I chatted with other writers in the theatre lobby next to piles of books, including my own. They told me what to make of newspaper reviews, what was important when reading from your work and when writing books, and, now we were on the subject and had had another beer, what life was all about.
I watched someone pick up a copy of my book from a pile and walk towards the till. I followed them, slightly nervous about the brazen question I was going to ask. ‘I wrote that,’ I said. ‘Shall I sign it for you?’ They said I could.
I wrote a column every morning. At the festival on Saturday, I read aloud what I had written in my hotel room in pyjamas that morning. My writing immediately reached an audience. Crossing Border was the best thing that has happened to me since my book was published, honest. But now, I want to go back to doing my writing where nobody can see.