The Writer begins when she is young. She doesn’t want to waste time. Reading is wonderful but writing feels better. After she finishes her first book, she shows it to her mother. Very nice, the mother says while underlining all the misspellings. The Writer is disappointed with herself. Even her main rabbit’s name, Hopper, misses one of its Ps.
In retrospect, one might say the Writer began too young. She wasted a lot of time.
The Writer makes another effort in high school. She submits an article to the school paper and sees her words in print. Magic! Power! With a handful of friends, she publishes a magazine in which she writes a feuilleton. There are ten copies of each edition. She also writes a short story that she is asked to read aloud in class. But each small victory is followed by excessive self-doubt: the flaws in her work call out to her. The ability of the Writer’s mind to critique itself increases so rapidly, that finishing a piece to her satisfaction becomes impossible. Each time she approaches the end of a story, The Writer has become smarter and looks down on the girl who began the tale.
In retrospect, one might say the Writer would have been better off waiting for her mind to mature. She wasted a lot of time.
At university, the Writer writes multiple papers on assignment. She has no time for stories, or so she tells herself. At night, however, she spends hours writing in her diary. Men accuse her of loving that diary more than she loves them. She has no defense—guilty as charged. At times, poems and prose pieces find their way into her diary. Yet they never find their way out. The Writer is not ready, or so she tells herself.
In retrospect, one might say she wasted a lot of time.
The Writer has written her debut novel. Hurray! Critiques are good. National television puts her face on the screen. For a while, the Writer seems to have found her place in time. She writes another novel and another and another. For each novel there are readers, but not so many and not enough, perhaps—who is to say? Well, her bank account is to say and the Husband who has sponsored her lifestyle thus far. He is not jealous of her diaries or her books. He just wants results. Even though he cannot understand a single word she has published, The Husband believes in The Writer and her books. The problem, he says, is your language. There aren’t enough people who understand it.
You are wasting your time.
The Writer contemplates writing in English. It’s true that she’s not sworn to her mother tongue—Dutch literature will survive without her. It’s also true that the majority of her conversations take place in English. Add to that the books she reads, the dreams she has, the shopping lists she makes. She practically lives in English. Still, she finds it arrogant to write a novel in a language not her own.
Not wanting to waste more time, though, she forces herself to give English a try.
There is an interlude in which the Writer writes in English and is not satisfied. Nabokov could do it, the Husband says. He means to encourage her, unaware that his words have the opposite effect. Nabokov was a genius—who is she? Time passes. Dissatisfaction remains. She’s almost ready to call the endeavor a waste of time. Stubbornly, she persists, until she writes a prose piece in English about a Writer and her Time that pleases her somewhat. She’s ready to show it to the world, but who would publish it?
The Writer, apparently, is still wasting her time.