Arthur Meiselman

Why I Want To Be A Writer         


March 2014

Since I can remember, as a little boy, even before I knew how to write, I wanted to be a writer. My crayon scribblings on the wall were a testament to my fervent desire even though they brought slapped hands and a kick in the ass. When I went to school I learned to read and write with pens and pencils... handwriting, a near art-form, fading away today. The shapes of the letters, the typography, mesmerised me. And later, etymology... the study and understanding of the history and derivations of words. I was fascinated (still am).

I was raised in a European-American kitchen (the talking and listening room) so I spoke and read a few languages. But... English was it! The language of my landscape, a rich gatherer and thief of other languages... English was it! And later I discovered that if you wanted to think, to dream, to speak, to write in English, to master English, you had to dig deep to its roots, to kiss its beginnings... not the Anglo-Saxon stew, you had to fall in love with Rome and Athens, Latin and Greek. I did that, mesmerised and fascinated.

My first writing was a poem. Anyone and everyone can write a poem and draw a picture: don't we 'twitter and chit-chat' know that so well. My first poem at 8 years old in the 3rd grade was a paen to "Judy" who passed me a drawing under the desk. It showed a girl and a boy making a baby. It was all wrong, the anatomy was wrong and so was her depiction of the act. So I wrote her a poem that graphically told her how it was done and with what. She, my pornographic pal Judy, was stunned and upset. She promptly took my note to the teacher who promptly took me and my note to the Principal who promptly dismissed me for the rest of the day. Those were the days! Nothing ever came of it except a revelation for me that the pen was mightier than what Judy's little mind thought sex was all about.

After that I wrote and wrote: poems, letters, stories, epigrams, mishigas (a delightful Yiddish term for "mixed-up craziness"). And I read. To write is to read, to read is to yearn to write. I read philosophy and science, poetry and novels, newspapers and history, translations and transliterations, everything I encountered. How I yearned, almost to the point of despair until I discovered, fell into the mind and voice of... William Shakespeare. The translations into English of his writings were magnificent: a richness of idiom, metaphor, descriptive verse, inexplicably innovative language, a richness unmatched before his time and since. He was, obviously, not from this planet, not from his 16th/17th century time. He didn't exist and the man who represented him, who translated his work was a mystery in his life and still is today. I had found a guide, a mentor, a new day of days in my life. Will Shakespeare spoke to me and I sang my refrain: I want to be a writer.

How to proceed? There is only one way to proceed: write. I wrote: poems, letters, epigrams, more mishigas, and now plays. Over the years, I finished and then burned as many pages as I had inked and typed. What does it mean to be a writer?

I had a friend once, who made the best bouillabaisse I've ever had and whose mother was a successful writer. He wanted to be like her. He wrote one novel, then two, then three. After all those years of labor, a publisher took his last novel and gave him a substantial advance. He no longer had to live in a cold-water fourth-floor walkup on 16th Street and 8th Avenue in NYC. But he stayed there anyway with the leaks and the cockroaches and waited: one year, two years, three years. It was never published. When he accosted the Editorial Director of the publisher who optioned his book, he was told: "See those shelves up there? There are 112 books that we bought, yours included. If we ever publish two of them, it will be alot. Don't hold your breath!"

My friend went home, climbed the stairs, gathered his pet lemur in his arms, went to the roof and jumped. He didn't kill himself, nor the lemur. He broke his right leg and his left arm. Praise the Lord! It was a sign. His despair left him. He was not a writer. He went on to become a successful travel agent.

What does it mean to be a writer? Does it mean being published or produced or simply read? Or does it mean simply: to write?

I truly want to be a writer. The 'ghost' writer who wrote this column for me and has been doing so for years told me to keep wanting, keep yearning. It's all in the yearning, he said. Besides, if I stop yearning and wanting, he'll lose a terrific gig.

Post Your Comments
On This Article Here

Share This Page

View other readers' comments in Letters to the Editor

Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms.
Read his
For more of his commentary and articles,
Check the Archives:

Search Arthur Meiselman

©2014 Arthur Meiselman
©2014 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Scene4 - International Magazine of Arts and Culture

March 2014

Cover | This Issue | inView | infocus | inSight | Perspectives | Blogs | inPrint | Comments Contact Us | Recent Issues | Special Issues | Masthead | Contacts&Links | Submissions Advertising | Subscribe | Books | Your Support | Privacy | Terms | Archives
Search This ISSUE

Search This Issue


Search The Archives

 Share This Page


Share in Facebook



Scene4 (ISSN 1932-3603), published monthly by Scene4 Magazine - International Magazine of Arts and Culture. Copyright © 2000-2014 AVIAR-DKA LTD - AVIAR MEDIA LLC. All rights reserved. Now in our 14th year of publication with Worldwide Readership in 118 Countries and comprehensive archives of over 8000 pages.


Hollywood Red: The Autobiography of Lester Cole  ©2013 Scene4 Books
Character Flaws by Les Marcott at
Scene4 Magazine - Thai Airways |