I realise that the next confession is not going to win me many rock ‘n roll points. But fuck that, Truth is my core value. And besides, I’m too old to pretend to be cooler than I actually am. So here it goes:
I like statistics.
Don’t get me wrong: ask me about dispersion, standard deviation or correlation, and I’ll shoot you looks of utter confusion. You might as well ask me to fill out my taxes with a blindfold.
No, not those, not the boring statistics. Not the kind that make you want to fake an outbreak of avian flu or bubonic plague every time the maths teacher goes even remotely close to the topic.
No, no, no. What I’m talking about are numbers, simply beautiful numbers and the truths, or lies, that hide behind them.
As a child, I could tell you how many times Gert Verheyen (the greatest player of all time) had played and scored for Club and country. I knew his age, weight, length and, as every Belgian does, where he met his wife. (I do understand that the latter is not a statistic.)
Later, as my interests widened, I used last.fm to keep track of my listening habits. Thanks to that wonderful app, I can tell you know that I’ve listened to Plimsoll Punks by Alvvays 7 times in the last 90 days. Not the most useful information, I realise, but everything my inner music nerd wanted to know.
Half a fuckin’ million words
Similarly, I started to register my writing productivity in February 2016. In a simple Excel file, I noted down what I’d written every day and the corresponding word count. I believed it would make me more efficient if I could visualise – yes, Excel makes great graphs – my writing.
And I guess it did, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I want to say is that my love for statistics allows me to reveal that between 3 February 2016 and 17 April 2018, I amassed 569.332 words.
Yes, that’s right, more than half a fucking million words rolled out of my keyboard.
Just to put things in perspective here: War and Peace is 587.287 words long. If only I’d used my efforts differently, I could’ve written a Russian classic! (For the sake of my argument, let’s just agree to ignore my lack of Russian citizenship here.)
But the point is: I didn’t. I didn’t attempt to become the next Tolstoy. Heck, I didn’t even try to become to next E.L. James.
Instead, I was too busy writing for the Man. I filled column after column in newspapers (which were subsequently used as a pad to peel potatoes on), page after page in magazines (which ended up unread in doctor’s waiting rooms), web article after web article (in the bottomless pit called the internet).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for possessing a pen that allows me to pay the bills and keep enough change for a couple of beers in the bar on Fridays. But let’s be honest, life is more than paying bills. Life is even more – prepare for a radical notion now! – than beers in bars.
Kick in the butt needed
Life is also about pursuing passions, following your inner drummer and all that blah blah. I might be too old to pretend to be cooler than I actually am, but I’m definitely not old enough to bury my dreams.
In Yogyakarta, Anete and I spent our evenings writing stories in cafés, bashing away on our keyboards and sampling coffee from all over the Indonesian archipelago in the process. In Pärnu, we usually came home and fell face first on the couch, drained of all energy and bodies increasingly sagging as the evening progressed. All the while, our manuscripts gathered dust on the shelf.
We desperately needed a kick in the butt.
And how to kick yourself in the butt more efficiently than by getting away from it all, away from the environment that proved itself such a brake on our personal creative writing? When everything is new, there’s no room for routine. There’s no falling in couches, no clutter, no distractions, no internet or newspapers, no soul-sucking obligations.
We’ve moved away from a society that doesn’t care about who we really are, or want to be, as long as we contribute, produce and consume. Now, we’re facing countless empty hours, days, weeks and months waiting to be filled.
It’s an escape, yes, but also an attempt to push ourselves, grab life by the throat and live it to pieces, instead of letting it go by in a haze and the blink of an eye. So when Anete wrote about how we decided to throw ourselves into the unknown, one key element was missing. It’s also an attempt to be who we want to be, writers.
Because easy is always too easy – a truth that makes sense for statistics as well as for life.