Sometimes, I feel as though the only reason I write is because a lot of the time, I get lonely, and very bored, and writing is one of the best balms for both such ailments.
Characters, for instance when you are lost in their worlds and troubles, help you feel less alone, even if only temporarily (and isn’t that the case with people in real life, as well? Even if you were to snuggle up close to someone, your cheek pressed to theirs, and spend the entire night whispering your thoughts to them, your minds would still remain separate, and always would be). With writing, you also have the freedom—the luxury—to make the lives’ of your characters and the world they inhabit as interesting and fascinating as you want it to be, limited only by your imagination, and live vicariously through them to boot. In short, while others turn to drink, sex, gambling or other addictions to stave off their boredom and loneliness, I turn to writing, to the opium of fantasy and the drug of the imagination, even though, just like drugs and alcohol, it isn’t able to completely fill the empty spaces inside my heart.
Here’s something they don’t really tell you when you’re kid: the truth is, life is mostly made up of boredom, loneliness, pain and confusion. Much of life is dark, and dreary. Thus, to make things less terrible, to cope with this horrible reality, we tell each other stories, or tell ourselves stories—and that’s where the entertainment business, ranging from movies to books, comes in. Like scared, little animals huddling around a campfire, with darkness lurking around us, we tell each other tales to keep each other warm, and distract ourselves from the vast emptiness of the world, the wolves lurking in the woods beyond the flames.
I have quite a few “comfort” fantasies up my sleeve, which I take out when I am in particular need of a good fix. Most of my comfort fantasies are exciting and romantic tales, where I find myself stranded somewhere with a bunch of brave adventurers, one of whom is particularly dashing and handsome. Together, we venture across the lands, helping one another out of tight spots, sleeping in hammocks and camping under bridges. At the end of our journey, I fall in love, and together, the dashing and handsome fellow and I ride off into the sunset—well, we ride off towards the library, to live out the rest of our days amongst books and cats, in conjugal happiness. These days, though, even the prospect of falling in love, of “finding someone” is starting to grow lacklustre. You see, even if I do find someone, the loneliness, pain, boredom, sadness and confusion will still be there. I don’t think those feelings are anything a single person can eradicate. Yet I use romance as an escape, anyway, as I am sure millions of men and women all over the world do, because it is a fantasy that fits in so neatly with my idealism and my deep desire to be loved. Were I to find myself in a relationship with someone in real life, I am certain, after a while, things would begin to feel quite boring and normal again. That’s why I like books, you see—once you get bored of reading one, you can just cast it aside and pick up another and dive into that one, whereas if you practice the same method with people you are considered a douchebag and will probably, if you’re as desperate to do the “right” thing as I am, die of guilt.
In my teenage years, I used to long to look into a pair of eyes that would look back at me with understanding, and empathy. I have given up on that possibility; most of the eyes I look into these days are rather dead, and hold no kinship. Instead, I have learned to seek kinship and solace from dead people. Now, it’s not what you think—I promise you I’m not scurrying to the nearest graveyard at night and digging up corpses and asking them to love me or anything. No, what I mean by that is, I have realised that sometimes the people one might have got along very well with unfortunately have a habit of existing some years before one’s time. Like Sylvia Plath, for instance. Just by reading her writing, I can tell we are kindred spirits, that she, introverted and creative, depressive and tormented, would have been a very good companion to have in my more darker moments. But she’s dead. She’s dead. She killed herself, in fact. So the only thing I can take solace from are the pieces of her she left behind—her words. And then there are others, like Emily Dickinson, or Emily Bronte, these odd, solitary, introverted women, whose hearts were full of such great feeling, whose voices have only remained because they preserved them in words—why, they’re my best of friends, you know. Through their words, they have reached out to me beyond the confines of space and time, reached out and touched my heart, and whispered into my ears, “You are not alone.” They may be dead, but they still matter a great deal to me, and that, I think, is why writing, and books, are the closest thing humans have to pure magic.
So, why do I write? To cure, if only temporarily, my loneliness and boredom. But there is another, bigger reason why I spend so much time alone, spending hours slaving away, painstakingly putting down words on paper about people who do not exist and who live in worlds that do not exist: and that is to cure the boredom and loneliness of other people who read my words, some of whom might even read them long after I, myself, am dead. Adrift on the seas of life, we send out our messages in bottles, hoping some of them might reach other ships—and they do. They do. And that somehow makes the effort of sailing the seas, braving the storms and the waves, entirely worth it.