John Burns

Initially, I wrote because I couldn’t speak. Well, this is not strictly true. I can speak. Some days I can even speak quite well. But some days I can barely speak at all, and, good or bad, up or down, it’s always a struggle. Let’s just say that an ability to speak is not something I can rely on at any given time.

This is a pity, really. From a young age, I’ve always loved language and all that it represented; all those gateways and doors and passageways linking one thing to something else, arcing over and under one another in perpetuity. I wanted to get a handle on it; to control language in the way others seemed to be able to when they spoke, so I started writing. I soon found I could write well, and, as I grew older, I found that sometimes people were even willing to exchange hard-earned money for my writing. So I wrote some more… and some more… and some more… I was writing in order to gain control.

Writing to control language; this embarrasses me now. The arrogance of a thought like that. The lofty, infantile expectations. Shameful.

Because, come on, let’s be honest, who amongst us can truly control language? We can plan and we can construct and we can build and we can characterise but, if we keep everything reined in and tight and close, what do we have? We don’t have writing, we have mathematics – beautiful, certainly, in its own right, but not really what we want from literature.

There was nothing else for it; I jacked in my futile objectives for something more pure, more organic and real. I stopped writing for control, whatever that meant, and started writing for possibility, for the potential that, somewhere in that tide of language, there might one day be thrown up some new, as yet unimagined configuration of letters and syllables, of words, of sensations.

That’s why I write, today, for possibility and for uncertainty, for the entropic thrill of it all. Every day is a ‘maybe’ kind of day; a ‘maybe today is the day’ kind of day. Sitting down to write, I wonder if this is one of those times when it all comes together and I find some different angle from which to approach life; a different frame in which to hang a familiar old reference.

Sure, it doesn’t always come off, but when it does… yeah that’s pretty special.

Tags: