When I was young, I used to fill notebooks with words.
When my mother found my secret stack (under the cupboard, inside a pile of garbage bags) she held them to the sunlight one by one and read each page with wide, disbelieving eyes. I stood there with clenched fists, watching her go through thousands upon thousands of words.
She cut my lunch allowance, which I was laundering to go towards my notebook addiction.
Not to worry: I learned how to use the computer instead. This is how I started typing over 80 words per minute.
Every day I felt this rising urge to achieve complete and utter bliss. I can only describe it as an overwhelming desire to write, and that full confidence that I could. I started out typing short stories copied from books. Lion King was the very first to be transcribed into MS-DOS. Eventually, I started typing out entire novels. As time progressed, I created my own.
Page after page of words. The only thing I remember from my childhood is sitting in the garden, writing words, and as I grew older, sitting alone in a room, in front of a computer screen typing out words.
I remember my friends yelling outside my window: “Ellise! When are you going to play?”
“Nope, gotta type,” was my reply.
When I was young I used to go through great lengths to quell my thirst for literature. I would sneak inside a library and try to borrow as many books as I could. I spent every lunchtime and recess in the library reading. I was the only person there. In retrospect I realize the librarian knew I had “borrowed” more books than I was allowed to because it was a very small library and I was its only customer. She smiled at me every time I left, even though I had books stuffed inside my shirt, inside my skirt, making me limp as I walked past.
I began selling my stories to get even more books. Eventually the teachers had to sit me down and told me I was in trouble for taking other students’ lunch money. I told them: “But they’re buying my stories.”
“Well, you’re not allowed to sell your stories.”
“So how am I supposed to buy books?” I asked, horrified.
“You’ll need to figure something else out.”
Now that I’m older, I’ve learned to quell this desire. Even though I thought of stories, I kept them inside, controlled, and had the patience to wait until after my commute to write them down. Of course, it never happened — by the time I got home, I’d be way too tired from work, that all I would want to do is sit down, watch TV, stories and ideas long forgotten.
Sometimes, I’d sit down, stare at my computer screen, forcefully will myself to write, only to be hindered by self-doubt and criticism: What’s the point? It’s too gimmicky. This is too much of a sell-out piece. Way to add to the cliche train. And before I knew it, I had paralyzed myself into immobilism, infinitely frozen into standstill, stories and ideas quelled and quenched by insecurity.
I find myself walking through bookstores and staring longingly at books I want to read. I devise a million reasons why it’s better I don’t read them all: full-time job, no time, no point. I try to make myself feel better that I did the right thing: you saved your money, now you can spend it on something else. Like phone bills. And rent.
And instead of feeling happiness inside bookstores, all I feel is loneliness, and that sinking realization that I will never have enough time to read all of these books, nor the mind to understand and remember them.
Ultimately, I think, I’d rather be the literature-addicted child who stopped at nothing to be transported into the world of words without any regard to the consequences that followed, instead of the responsible adult with a full-time job who walks into bookstores wistfully, hoping she could read all the books ever written and wanting so badly to participate and give back with words of her own some day.
The addiction is still there: the only thing that faded through time is certainty.