The virtue of books

Writing is cathartic, it empties your mind of needless clutter and thoughts that make you feel unhappy, unheard. I started writing as a way to deal with an illness that cannot be cured, but it turned into much more: a passion, a craze.

If you write for the right reasons, you add value to your life. If you do not write to get published, and you’re not looking for recognition or fame, then you’re writing because you have to write. You just need to write. You cannot but write.

Acknowledgement is nice, but it is not why I sit down with an empty, white page in front of me; it is not my goal. I write because I want to share. Where a painter picks up his brush, I have a pen and a blank sheet of paper, or my laptop and a large cup of coffee as company. And that’s all I need.

Spinning thoughts into words and sentences is to dream aloud. They are interconnected, bound together. It is a process yet to be fully understood as if I am guided along a path of creation by an unknown force, not knowing where it will end.

Even when I’m not writing, I think about writing. What started as a wish to understand, to express, became much more. It is a need, a way to perhaps inspire other people because they allow me to express myself, wonder about life and dream out loud.

When I was a child, I spent countless hours at my local library. I was a member of two libraries because one was not enough. Superwoman I was not. Otherwise, I would have joined more.

The feel of a book, resting in my hands, waiting to be opened and relished, this was IT for me. I did not need anything else in life, I just needed books. Touch them, gently turn each page as if they were made of rice paper and wrap them up in my handbag.

I read milk cartons, telephone books and newspaper ads. I read and collected old dictionaries and bibles as if they were the best fiction or non-fiction books in the world. I gladly hurt by bibliophilia, and still do.

In high school, I yearned for more books and writing stories. Trying to fit all this into a crazy schedule, I stopped doing both until my love for libraries took me down its road of employment.

Working in libraries was heaven. Surrounded by millions of letters, words, sentences and literary marvels, I once again bound these to my love for everything written. Love is perhaps too simple a word; passion is a better meaning; craze might be the sum of love and passion.

When I moved to Ireland, a country which harbours some of the best authors ever to grace this world, I once again submerged in a vast tidal wave of literature: James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh… the list of influential, gifted authors is endless. And I get to live it, day in, day out.

A life filled with reading and writing, what more does a soul like me need?

Hanging on books

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”  (William Faulkner)

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” (Henry David Thoreau)

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” (Isaac Asimov)

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.” (Carl Sagan)

“Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you’re working. Tell them it’s research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.” (Jennifer Weiner)

signature IMSM

©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013

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