“In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind” – Joan Didion
I decided that I would introduce myself by telling you about this book that just dropped through my letter box. Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin. Its a book that I fell in love with before I read a single word; a book with an introduction by Patti Smith and an author whose tragic death immortalised her in her youth, a feminist heroine of the 1960s.
In her introduction, Patti Smith insists that she would not have become the writer she is today without Astragal and its enigmatic author-heroine. My obsession with Patti Smith, and dedication to emulating her in any way possible, often has me adopting her influences as my own. I have bought volumes of the works of Arthur Rimbaud and Jean Genet simply because she names them among her greatest influences, I take my copy of Just Kids wherever and whenever I travel, and I have an entire folder on my computer of pictures of her and Robert Mapplethorpe together. Like I said, I’m obsessed. So when the book arrived through my letter box and I ripped open the envelope and stared at the pixie face resting on the pink cover, I tried to imagine that I was not myself, but her. That it was not a rain-grey day in Nottingham, England, but All Saints day in 1968, that I was Patti Smith, alone and hungry in New York City, stumbling across the book that would inspire her to become, well, her.
This is the best way I can find to introduce myself; obsessively nostalgic for a past that is not my own, an expert in escapism, unashamedly pretentious (you were all thinking it). I spend more time romanticising novels and their authors than I do reading them. I also spend more time contemplating the kind of writer that I one day hope to be than doing the leg work to get there – I suppose that is why it has taken me so long to actually start this blog. I’d rather perennially put off starting something than realise that my ideas or my writing sucks. Its the same mentality that has found me pulling all-nighters in the library one too many times because I can’t bring myself to start my essays until I’m left with less than 24 hours to pound out 4,000+ words. The imminent deadline eventually trumps my creative paralysis, but there is no such deadline for life.
So, in fear of reaching middle age bitterly slogging it through a 9 to 5, drunk on red wine and the thought of what could have been, here I am. Throwing myself head first into my fear of failure.