I am bursting with ideas right now. I am driven to write, write, write.
This is always the result of book bingeing. These are the periods in my life, when for months I consume books.
I’ve had this binge/purge relationship with books and writing as long as I can remember.
I’ve always been a scribbler with an overactive imagination, but the way and volume I read at once, simultaneously over extended periods makes for a mish mash of ideas and ideology.
I remember purposefully reading everything in the house during the long holiday between July and September the year I was eight. It included all of my books, my brother’s books and a heavy selection from my mother’s bookshelves that included treaties on European history from the middle ages until the end of the 19th century; and a particularly interesting one on Russian history and Peter The Great; a book on Malcolm X; several trashy romance novels I literally inhaled; a book on Marcus Garvey; a couple of 5th Form text books on Caribbean history throughout slavery and a number of English classics.
I went to school that year and spun stories of how my mother had taken me to China, did a book report on one of Jackie Collin’s novels and got into a fierce argument with my teacher on why it was impossible for Christopher Columbus to have discovered the ‘New World’. All three things landed me in the Head Mistress’s office, while she (an Ursuline nun) questioned me about my vivid imagination and grilled my mother on the content of my reading material. This was how I labelled in that sterile school, as a ‘problem child’. They recommended counselling with the school psychiatrist.
This was one of the encouraging factors that got me into the habit of running away from that place and getting lost in the surrounding streets, but that is really another story.
My mother did not curtail my reading and this pattern of binge reading continued, followed by a purge of expression in some form. My mother’s intellectual interests as a historian, an artist, an actress and an English and History teacher, heavily influenced the volume of reading material that was available to me. She also took me to the library many Saturday mornings and left me there for hours to wander around. I was under some supervision, of course, but for the most part I’d find books to read and hole up in some corner and lose myself somewhere.
She was always interested in my ideas about the world, and I remember endless discussion about the idea and people I read about in the books I read. She told me later both my brother and I would surprise her with our grasp of what we read. She also tells me still she kind of regrets allowing us so much access to books and information, because it ruined both of us for school. We were both bored stiff by the experience.
When I got into secondary school, I’d get my school books two weeks before school and read them all by the time school opened, then spend an entire year reading them methodically chapter by chapter in that institutionalised way inherent of post-colonial grammar schools. I remember the whole thing as being frustrating. My mind wandered frequently.
To amuse myself and my class mates, I’d write serialised short stories about teenaged love and oppression in sloping inline handwriting on stapled together photocopy paper stolen from the school where my mother taught, or my aunt’s office, or the school office, or where ever I could get me some damnit. My readers were hooked and harassed me to finish stories.
By the time I started writing for newspapers at age eighteen, my life as a writer had already been going on, but I wasn’t aware of it. It seemed a natural part of me, and I didn’t really think about it as a professional thing.
Then I began to make money doing it, and suddenly had money for CDs and books, and the cinema, that I made every week from a music review column on page 2 of this Friday colour section in one of the local papers.
This consummation mode does dies down. For long periods, sometimes years, I read maybe only nine or ten books in a year and so many magazines and comics, and other relatively insubstantial shit, it’s hard to fathom. These also for some reason, always dovetail with a lack of writing in my life, and a contraction of my imagination or it’s diversion into some other activity. Then I will read, read, read, read, read, and keep two years of journals and then nothing, it dries up; crippled by a writer’s block.
Over the course of the last ten years, as my powers for observation became more honed, more acute, and my ability to organise my thoughts and ideas into words grew more focussed, I have realised that those periods of book bingeing are closely related to periods of output.
Later that year I started writing short stories, my poetry exploded out of me, I think I wrote 30 or 40 in about eight months… sometimes three and four a week. In addition, I was keeping journals, writing for the press and began to write code. In that time, I was making a little money here and there. I spent close to BDS$2,500 dollars on books. I know this because I kept all my receipts and added it up in Quickbooks. It obviously wasn’t all at once. However, I remember spending $400 here, $250 there. Always when I got paid from something, and never without actually thinking to hard about it. I also borrowed a lot of books during that period.
Then I stopped writing for three years. I wrote nothing, not even in journals. Whatever writing I did was concentrated in online forums, and in usenet groups, and mostly as commentary not as a focussed story or anything.
Then, I started working on Piquant Bass, and wrote other erotica stories (now lost) and began to write poetry again. I started editing this little youth paper, and wrote. I also started another journal, and book binged.
What shocked me I think was that my writing got better. I suddenly began to pay more attention to the mechanics of writing, structure, flow, delivery and vocabulary.
After the youth paper was suspended, and I departed, my writing was all about trying to start Sunhead as a business in Barbados. I wrote business plans, proposals, letters, code, code, code. I also made a little money, and bought some books. Read I think dozens of books.
By the time I got to Trini, I had been keeping a journal for a couple of years, but not writing much else. The money in Trinidad, the regularity of a pay cheque turned me into a book pimp, a book true book slut. I also hauled many of my books to Trinidad during trips between Barbados and there. I can tell you every bookstore in Port-of-Spain and it’s environs. I can tell you where to find what you’re looking for, and if you’re likely to find it at all. I spent so much money on books there. I also read incessantly for one of the longest periods in my life. I also had a very crucial writer’s block.
Then I discovered blogging, but then much of that is history now, cached at Google and other proxy servers around the world.
My reading has slowed down, but never actually stopped all together, but my writing has not slowed down either. Right I am doing both simultaneously. Although it can be argued that writing in one’s blog, is not quite churning out fiction, articles and other writing for pay, it is however been an outlet for many feelings, and testing ground for many ideas.
I have been reading incessantly for the last nine months.I have read books simultaneously (a habit picked up in childhood) and one after the next. I have read for references, I have reread old favourites, read new books, read to learn, read to edit. My blog has been my most consistent outlet for expression since I started it. In the last month alone, I’ve read nine books; one of them in eighteen hours. I am rereading The House Of Spirits, by Isabelle Allende, one of my favourite novels. Last night I dreamt of Clara flying around in her chair, and of Tres Marias. This morning, I could still feel the images lingering.
This has been an interesting examination of confluences in my personality and my character and my binge purge relationship with reading and writing.
I wonder what will happen next?