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Blog post by Karin Petko

Have you ever thought to yourself when writing a seminar paper that, really, you did not come up with anything new or special? That you have just compiled and gathered in one place some different sources and ideas? That your entire paper is just a conglomerate of citations and quotes? Is it really your work then? Where is the line between a metatext and plagiarism – putting aside the citing criteria? Where is the line between authoring a work of art and arranging different creations into a new and specific order?


Dear reader,

I am sure you have at least once in your life tried to write something – may it be a poem, a short story, a novel, a play … If it was nothing literary, it was definitely in a form of a seminar or research paper, or an article even. It doesn’t matter. What does, however, is the fact that you have very likely found yourself in a pickle. How to start? Where to begin? Which words to use? What to write about? Simply, how to do it?

Let me tell you that “this is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard” (Neil Gaiman). Yet, Earnest Hemingway would disagree about the toughness of the process: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Easy peasy. Really.

However, the first few sentences will always be the hardest; “the scariest moment is always just before you start” (Stephen King), but “there is [also] something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you” (Beatrix Potter). “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go” (E. L. Doctorow). It is obvious that you have to start somewhere, because even “the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t write” (unknown).

There is no point in waiting for the perfect moment or perfect inspiration to arise: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word” (Margaret Atwood). “You may not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page” (Jodi Picoult). Once again, you have to start somewhere, as Steven Wright said: “I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.

Yet, that does not mean that just about anyone can be a writer. No, no. “A writer … is someone who pays attention to the world” (Susan Sontag) and tries “to listen to what others aren’t saying … and writes about the silence” (N. R. Hart). Because after all, “you don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say” (F. Scott Fitzgerald). Because “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you” (Maya Angelou). You simply have to write to survive: “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t I would die” (Isaac Asimov).

So, if you thought corona quarantine was hard, try a writing ban. Mission impossible, because “the pen is the tongue of the mind” (Horace). In the times when our physical freedom is obstructed, we at least need to be able to express ourselves freely and we need to somehow save the things “that should not be forgotten” (Isabel Allende). And how better to do it than through writing? I mean, eye-to-eye conversations are off the table, except for socialising with books. Them, we can have closer than 6 feet.

And reading is not only good to pass the time in a lockdown. Nope. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” (Stephen King). People usually read to escape reality, yet writing does even more for you: not only can you become someone else entirely, because “writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia” (E. L. Doctorow), but truly, “you can make anything by writing” (C. S. Lewis). You can even make the quarantine disappear. For a while at least. And at least for yourself.

However, when we write, we usually don’t do it for ourselves only. No, we need to take our readers into account. Right? Well, Margaret Atwood would disagree: “Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.” Yet, the truth is that regardless of the fact that “description begins in the writer’s imagination, … [it] should finish in the reader’s” (Stephen King).

So, dear writers, even if your piece of writing is a flop, it is not necessarily entirely your fault. Yes, that is my way of telling you that if you disliked this blog post, do not blame it on me, at least not fully.

Yours truly,

A writer “An amateur who didn’t quit” (Richard Bach)

P.S.: Writing quotes are “peculiar saying[s] capable of shaming writers into writing” (unknown), but, to be honest, they rarely help when you feel uninspired and blocked – at least in my case. Maybe you are different; maybe you will find inspiration in writing quotes. In any case, it was worth a try. Anyhow, always remember that “the world is never the same once a good poem [or any other piece of writing] has been added to it” (Dylan Thomas). So, all you “peculiar organism[s] capable of transforming caffeine into books” (unknown), get your writing hats on and I’ll see read you.

I have thought of it. Yet I still have no answer. Is this blog post of mine an original piece or just a puzzle of quotes? You decide. But truly, it does not really matter. Its purpose is only to get you writing. So, let’s see if it works.