Shakespeare needed the money

When I was eight years old I read The Road to Agra by Aimee Sommerfelt and knew I wanted to be a writer.  This book is the story of a thirteen year old boy named Lalu who takes it upon himself to walk across northern India in an effort to get his seven year old sister Maya to a UN aid station. Here he hopes the doctors can halt the encroaching blindness that will otherwise doom her to a life of isolation and poverty.

When I finished the book I read it again. And again. And every time I read it, the story never lost its ability to transport me out of the cramped, downtown apartment I shared with seven other family members. Every time I read it my cracked and swollen feet walked the same dusty roads and my stomach felt the same hollow hunger as these two children from half way around the world, and something inside me said, I want to do that.  At eight years of age I didn’t even really understand what that was.  Now, half a century or so later, I know that that is to string words together in a way that transports people outside of their now  and takes them—even for just a few random minutes at a time—into the world of someone else.

Writers write for as many reasons as there are writers.  Your reasons don’t have to be grandiose—not everyone who puts pen to paper will ever be short listed for the Giller or the Booker, or even wants to be.  Many of us write only for ourselves–we have thoughts and ideas floating around in our grey matter that refuse to settle down until we lasso them in and restrain them to the printed page. Some write for the­­­­­­ amusement of others. Some write strictly for the amusement of themselves. Some write to relax.  Some write to dispel anger. Others to provoke thought. And yes, some write because their chief ambition is to be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

All writers write because there is something about the power of words that intrigues them. In the same way an artist will rework a canvas until what he sees staring back from his easel is as close as he can possibly get to the image rooted in his head, a writer will shuffle, trade and modify words until they evoke exactly what the writer wants the reader to see and hear and feel. Even when the only reader is himself.

So, whether you pen a journal that gets hidden nightly in the bottom of your sock drawer, or are pumping out ten pages per day of the next Great Canadian Novel—just write. For your own reasons. Write with blunted pencils in grubby notebooks. Sit down at your computer or laptop and pound away at the keys.  Scribble in eyeliner pencil on random bits of cocktail napkin, or jot a line or two in the comment section at the bottom of this blog.  We want hear from you. Writer.

Mela Foxallen


More by

2 Responses to “Shakespeare needed the money”

  1. eve says:

    Mela, when I saw your title I couldn’t help but think of this:

    http://www.marriedtothesea.com/021306/got-to-get-paid.jpg

  2. H Menon says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog when I did an online search for ‘The Road to Agra’. I first read the book as a ten-year-old in 1980, an dthat copy was already a couple of decades old at the time. Surprisingly I chanced upon it the other day when clearing out piles of junk at my parents’ home. Yes, the same terrcotta-brown hardbound copy with illustrations by Ulf Aas (a name that hugely amused me when I was ten). Incidentally, I found that I could remember much of the story when I reread it. Clearly it must have made an impact!