Note: This post is about my writing, not this blog. This is also one of the most personal things I’ve ever posted online.
I wrote my first novel when I was 11. It just happened and it felt so natural. More natural than having a chat with kids my age (which explains the need for novel writing: lonely kids who like to read often write their own stories).
Novel writing was what I did in elementary school and in middle school (called high school in America). I wrote more than 10 (I know the exact number but it’s not important here). I never wrote short stories or poems. I don’t know how to do that: it just never felt natural. My early novels were short, about 100-200 pages long, but later I realized I was unable to write anything under 400-500 pages. Genres were adventure, detective/crime novels (with my hero detective) and SF.
It was back in the 90s. Those were very, very bad times in my part of the world. But I don’t think I used writing to escape that, though it did help, I guess. I did it because I was lonely. But in any case, it was my way of having fun, and escaping the bad things that were happening. I wasn’t delusional: I knew it was just daydreaming, but it did help to have something of my own, something I could control, something to put my mind, and will and heart into it.
It’s been a long time since I wrote a novel. And it’s not like I don’t have a need for it. “Need” is a good way to describe it, maybe the only one. I never wanted to write to be rich, popular or successful. I never even tried to publish anything (though I do want to publish my new novel, and all of the future ones- I feel like I’m finally ready for that). But basically, I just need to write, and plan my novels.
But there are some things I don’t want to write about, even if I’m expected to.
Things I don’t write about
Eastern Europe and its madness. I know this is what everybody expects a Balkan writer to write about (both domestic and international audience), but frankly, I don’t have any wish to do that. Being born and raised here certainly makes me the way I am, and I am not trying to hide or escape the fact I’m Eastern European, female, Serbian, straight, archaeologist, ex-Yugoslavian, white, Eastern Orthodox; that I am shy, have possible social phobia, that my father died when I was 10, that I am nerdy, that I panic and worry a lot, that I love animals and that I often use profanities.
I don’t want to hide or escape any of it. It’s not possible to do it anyway: you are who you are, and if you are a writer, it shows in your writing no matter what; even if you want to hide it.
But it doesn’t mean my subjects and interests should be what is expectable of an Eastern European woman. In short, I am not interested in writing about Balkans. At all. Nor am I interested in writing “girl power” books that trash men. Nor am I interested in writing about Orthodox Christianity, or even about kids who lost their fathers. Everything described above is a part of me and will show in my writing any way or the other – but it doesn’t mean my books need to be about any of it.
I also don’t write about family or childhood. Maybe I’m just not ready, or maybe I’m just not inspired. When you try to put your reality into words it often falls flat. It’s not even close to how it really was. So while I do think writing what you know best is a good advice, I also think writing about reality – especially your family – is one of the most difficult things.
Maybe I choose not to write about these subjects because I use writing to escape the madness around. (In fact, it’s the most likely cause). My husband, on the other hand, feels relieved when he writes about living here, about the problems in the country and politics, or family. It makes him feel better. It’s not like I don’t understand it, but it was always different for me. Constructing and planning a story, using everything to make it work, exploring new ideas, learning about new things (such as lands and people) was always the most exciting thing for me. And there is no need for writing if it doesn’t bring either excitement or a relief.