Saturday, January 2, 2016

I am a writer

I am a writer. I have authored four novels, which were published by two publishing houses. I have written one short theater play, and two of my novels were turned into theatre plays, one of which ran at the Deutsche Theater in Berlin. One my novels will also be broadcasted as a radio play next year. My first novel was published in March 2005, and the new one will hit the bookstores in April 2016, I also have recently been working with two directors on a movie based on my 3rd novel Man Down.

However, ten years are enough to question whether it has all been worth it. Has this been worth the struggle?

I am no bestseller author. I guess I never will be. My style, my topics are neither for the masses nor for the ones who decide which writers get grants (although I have won two so far).

A young skinhead, a girl forced into prostitution, a young man who can only pay his debts by trafficking drugs, a man who goes into an evacuated zone after a nuclear power plant disaster, a young Muslim forced to break into a hate preacher’s house. My heroes are broken creatures. Poor, unlucky, lonely, at times unkind and brutal, trying to survive.

I use foul language, something which was rather uncommon in the German speaking world until very recently. My works are not for the faint of heart. Radio stations which broadcast excerpts from my novels often censor my words. I write about people and topics about which I wanted to but could not read when I was in my twenties because hardly any writers dared to broach them. Those were the halcyon days of young German yuppie writers. Almost popstars, well dressed, smart, weekly guests in famous talk shows.

They did not write about my world. They did not write about the people in my daily life. There did not write about my life, my loves, my hunger, my passions. I enjoyed reading them, yes. Solid entertainment. But I hungered for something different.

Sometimes people suggest that I write something more commercial. Something that could potentially reach the top 10 bestsellers list. “Don’t be too hard on your readers. Cut out some of the violence and sex.”

The funny thing is — perhaps I would if I could. But I can’t. I cannot rid myself of me and write from a place of dishonesty. This is me. This is the way it has to be. I do, of course, reach compromises with my editor. Naturally, sometimes a scene just does not work. All in all, however, what I write is what I am. Sometimes, it feels as if a marathon runner is being asked to run a bit faster over a short distance and compete on the 100m race. It simply does not.

Back to the original question: Has this been worth the struggle? There have been ups and downs, and the downs hit me hard, but I always got back on my feet. The ups always have always come when the uncertainty has been most overwhelming. Money has always flown in when I on the verge of financial ruin.

I shudder when I think about the very real possibility that one day no publishing house will buy my scripts anymore, that no theatre will want my stories on stage… I am forty-three. What will I do then? More than 15 years ago, I had many roads to choose from; I chose this one, and I will walk it to the end.

I guess this is not a question that can be rationally answered. But when I do think about it, I inevitably think of Tommy, from Football Factory, who recounts all the bad things that have happened to him and his friends but finally concludes: “After all that, you really do have to ask yourself if it was all worth it… ‘course it fucking was!”

Follow me on