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Jumbie

April 5, 2014

:: by Lisa Allen-Agostini ::

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I’m on a writing residency. Every single person who hears that asks, “What does that mean?” Except for the writers and artists, who say, “Congratulations!” Because they know it means I get to do the one thing in the world a writer should be doing: I get to write. I get to sit and write, every day if I want to, all day, if I want to. I have a housekeeper to do everything except my laundry; and I get three square meals a day cooked and served to me in a restaurant. For five whole weeks it has been my job to sit my ass down and write.

Which sounds great but in reality was harder than it should have been.

When I was a little girl, a teen, a young adult, I wrote all the time. I mean, ALL THE TIME. I would run away from whatever my mother wanted me to do and I would either have my head in a book reading or I’d be writing. I wrote in the morning before school. I wrote in the maxi or on the bus on the way to school. I wrote in school, at recess, at lunch, after school. At night, I’d lie in bed and write poems by the glow of the streetlight outside my window. I’ve written poems while walking to classes on UWI campus.

I used to write all the time.

And then, about fifteen years ago, I stopped.

Okay, I never stopped. Even when I consider myself to be “not writing”, I’m really writing, just maybe not the kind of writing I want to do. I’m a journalist and editor and I write PR for a living, so anyhow you spin it, I write pretty much every day anyway. It’s just that there’s a huge, a helluva huge difference between the writing I do for money and the writing I’ve been focused on since January 26 when I got to Grenada.

It’s been interesting.

One of the first things I noticed about having all this time just to write whatever I wanted was that I had lost the knack of it. It wasn’t easy for me anymore. I had to concentrate, to really try hard to get into that place of mindlessness and vacancy that would allow the characters to speak. Part of the reason for this is because I was out of practice, but another reason was that I had been trying for most of the past 15 years to shut them up.

I hate being alone because in my head there are always these voices, these stories, these lines running. I dream in Technicolor, big dreams with complicated plots and subplots and most nights I’d rather not. I’d rather just sleep, thanks. I’d rather have dinner watching TV so that these characters don’t take over my brain. I described my reading the other day as “white noise” to cover up the chatter.

Because I’ve been almost utterly alone, almost all day, almost every day for the past five weeks, it’s been a struggle to keep those characters contained. And then I realized that that was what was wrong. I had to let them out.

Now I can’t stop writing. I woke up on Sunday, ran to my computer and started typing. It was the first time that I didn’t bother to ritualize it—make breakfast, drink my tea, have a long shower—which is the routine I’d established over the past month to begin to write again. Such rituals can be important. You’ll hear writer after writer say that they make themselves write every day; whether what they write is any good or not, it’s the habit that’s important. Well, I’m back in the habit for sure. Sunday morning, at 5.22 am, I just jumped at the computer and wrote and wrote for about two hours.

I posted on Facebook the other day that I must have been one strange child, because to get to this place where I can write like that I find myself staring off into space and being completely blank, practically drooling on myself. I catch myself doing it in public and it’s embarrassing. I feel I look like an idiot. But now I remember that that’s what I have to do to write like this. I had completely forgotten.

Writing is a jumbie. It’s riding me again and I love it.

 


20140129_0015Lisa Allen-Agostini
The inaugural Dame Hilda Bynoe Writer-in-Residence at St. George’s University, Lisa Allen-Agostini, writes and edits for the T&T Guardian. The author of the teen action-adventure novel The Chalice Project (Macmillan Caribbean, 2008) and co-editor of the anthology Trinidad Noir (Akashic Books, 2008), she was shortlisted for the Hollick Arvon Prize for  Caribbean Writers in 2013. She founded and chairs the not-for-profit organisation The Allen Prize for Young Writers.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Maxine permalink
    April 5, 2014 9:17 am

    Excellent, excellent, excellent article!

  2. April 9, 2014 8:59 am

    Reblogged this on Speak Ghana.

Trackbacks

  1. Lisa Allen-Agostini on writing | Repeating Islands
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