It all began in middle school, around age 12. Every now and then, during Italian class, we were told to write. As I recall, the assignment mostly was to “write about anything” which appeared to be more clement than being coerced into writing about a specific obscure topic. Thus, I wrote about the last holiday, the past holidays, or imaginary holidays. I felt intimidated by the prospect of having to fill a page as much as by the endlessness of those first minutes I needed to find a start other than “Once upon a time”. I disliked writing.
The teacher required us to write. What he never took care of was to convey, or evoke, a passion or, really, just a curiosity for writing. For most of us it might have been a matter of discovering a hidden interest. He didn’t teach us how to do so and I wasn’t able to uncover that interest myself. It might not have been the teacher’s task but I was too young, absorbed in playing music and Lego. I continued to dislike writing.
My aversion for writing nurtured a belief that I’m useless when it comes to languages–or maybe it was the other way around. For sure, the sorry state was routinely immortalized by the corresponding insufficient grades, which were stamped in a booklet of white pages and pale yellow cardboard covers.
I had to first read Goethe, in particular Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, to discover writing. It was 5 years later. I was 17 and it wasn’t in Italian but in German class. I read Werther not once or twice but a few more times. I had the book as special subject for German final high school examination. With Werther my dislike for writing finally came to an end. I had to read Goethe to understand how to improve my Italian grades.
With Goethe I started to write poems, some German some Italian. Remarkably, having “fallen in love, once again” wasn’t a necessary prerequisite, to write poems. I was equally inspired by the comet Hale-Bopp or the Swiss Army.
With the end of high school and the beginning of university my focus shifted from Goethe and Leopardi to Linux and Java. Utterly troubling, you may argue. Indeed, my recent discovery had plunged but it didn’t disappear. Over the years I acquired a new language, English, and the final thesis marked the end of fearing English language in writing–seminal as Goethe for German and, together with Leopardi, for Italian.
Today, I try to maintain a blog. I see it as a tool to keep on writing, with the potential of reaching an audience. Because details sometimes matter, nowadays I can spend considerable time discussing the aesthetics of setting a period inside or outside quotation marks.