F. Scott Fitzgerald always feared oblivion and losing his voice amid the voices of others. He couldn’t stand the thought of owning a mind made up more of the thoughts of others than of his own. I understand his fear and by God if that’s not the most debilitating fear a writer can have. There are those books you read that fill you with so much inspiration and so much fire that you cannot wait to write your own. Your thoughts race with new stories and new ideas and your hands fly like crazy until it feels like they are going to snap off from overuse. But then there are those other books. Those books that are so life changing, so unbelievable to even be real, that makes you think that you could never in your wildest dreams create anything new or important. Everything that could ever be said has already been said in the perfect words of someone else. Not only will your own writing never compare to theirs, but you don’t even want to compete because their work is too golden to even approach. What is a squeak of mine compared to the shouts of Gatsby?
Those books are the ones I’ve read so many times it almost feels as though I’d written them. I’ve walked each chapter like a hallway in my childhood home. Holden’s hunting cap hangs on a hook in the front room, Gatsby stands in the doorway looking far off into the distance with an empty champagne flute in his hand, Scout and Jem elbow past me toward the back door, Atticus following close behind reminding them of their manners. And there in front of me on the dining room table: a typewriter. Although the world seemed so full of voices, none of them were mine yet. I could tell the characters surrounding me were begging for more people to fill the house. It was up to me to give them life. My voice needs to be shared just like theirs did. In my mind I sit at the typewriter and my fingers drift coolly across the keys. Even when they are a bit more stilted in reality, that dream pushes me forward.
So I sit cloaked in sad music in a bed full of broken spines and well-loved pages, wrinkled from repeated visits through the ages. My mother worries that I’m not sleeping enough. My father hopes I can make a viable career out of late nights, coffee, and words. My roommates are just grateful I take time out of imaginary worlds to pay rent in reality. People stare at the dark circles under my eyes and think they are simply marks of one person’s tired night. Little do they know they are footpaths carved into my skin by the endless running of my mind.