Poetry

The Identity of the Writer

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The beginning of the first class in poetry was all about identity. Professor made us write our name, our details, where we we born, all on a white, plain sheet of paper. Then he asked us which is the place we call home. I wish I could say I feel London is my home – but I have been here for too short and I still see Livorno, Italy, as my home. He wanted us to write down the languages we speak. I have studied Norwegian for one year and a half and I have studied in Oslo for four months, but I can speak well only English and Italian.

Then he wanted us to answer to these questions.

  1. Name of the latest text that you’ve read, that moved you or spoke to you.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, especially the last part, Emma’s cracking, because the whole book was about feeling disconnected from reality, attached to dreams, and the end was the moment when she broke off. She was just incapable of being happy with ordinary life. Which I think is something many can relate to.

2. Do you call yourself a writer? Why?

I call myself an attempting, aspiring writer, a beginner. I wouldn’t say that I am just a writer. Well, the thing is that I do write, both because it’s what I study and because it’s what I like to do in my spare time. I do write but it’s not my profession, it’s my passion. Besides, I’ve never been published except from some short stories on small journals.

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3. Describe your process. How would you explain your habits when writing?

I do get inspired by… well, everything. Can be a song, a movie I’ve seen, a book I’ve read, something happening to me or something just popping out in my head. I write down my thoughts in a very untidy way. I usually mix everything up with an incredible amount of other stuff and details.

I have noticed that many creative writing courses start with thoughts and questions on students’ identity, not only as people, but also as writers. It already happened with the playwriting, non-fiction and fiction classes. I guess I should be more daring and aknowledge myself as a writer, even if I don’t do that. I consider myself a student that is learning a craft. An apprentice. I wouldn’t say that I am a writer as my professors are writers. It’s just not the same.

Speaking of students, Professor Villanueva gave us an interesting list of rules for students and teachers written by John Cage. They are quite famous and I had read them before, but it is always inspiring to get to know John Cage’s world better. I didn’t remember the first rule. Find a place you trust and try trusting it for awhile. This is a good advice, not only to a student, but also to a writer. It made me ask myself what are the places I trust. Where are the places I work better. For example, last week I had some issues with the lighting in my room. The bulb of the small lamp that I keep on the desk burnt. It was a warm light, while the central bulb of the room had a cold, too bright light. I couldn’t work well. Maybe this is stupid, but it’s something.

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To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way. True. I always put some deadlines to myself – it what helps me getting work done. Sometimes is hard, but the work of the writer is very much based on self discipline. The hardest part is getting yourself on the chair and start. Or start revising.

The only rule is work, says John Cage. Smooth and simple. Not work in a slavery way, just work because, if you do work, then you’re going to feel satisfied and happy with yourself and, evetually, you’ll reach what you want. Work does not only include just sitting down and studying or writing. In the list, John Cage says that it’s important to always be around, to come or go to everything (especially classes!), to read everything you can get your hands on. If you work hard, you’ll (probably) get where you want.

This is very important and it leads me to the 9th rule: be happy whenever you can manage it. True as well. This is very important. It is important to read, to write, to go on with your ambitions and dreams, but it is also important to be happy. To have a drink instead of studying again as any other day. London is a very tiring city, but it’s also full of joy. I need to remember it, as a girl alone in this city, as a student and as a writer.

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