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A Room of My Own competition – Highly Commended: Olivia Thurlby

Olivia Thurlby

Filed under: Non-fiction

A Struggle with Immortality

What does a writer need if they are to write? “Money and a room of her own,” according to Virginia Woolf. But what do I need? As someone who is not so much a Writer, as a Going-To-Write, who gets so caught up with the whole business of living that they rarely get round to writing anything down. Someone who plans to finish their story, or poem, or essay “one day,” and not a moment before… What do I need?

The answer seems simple enough. I’m busy, so I need time, just time. More time – an unlimited number of tomorrows. Enough tomorrows that I run out of words before I lose the ability to record them. I need to be immortal…

But I have time. I spend it, every day. Studying, reading, drawing, painting, exploring… And I don’t write a single word.

Why? Because I’m young. Because I’m busy, and I’m tired, and sometimes writing feels far to much like work. And because I’ll have another chance to write tomorrow, when I might have less things to do, and I’ve had a proper night’s sleep.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll do it tomorrow. Because there’s always going to be tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Until I run out of tomorrows.

And I haven’t written a single word.

All my lifetime passes before I finally put metaphorical pen to paper, and find the courage to carve my existence into the face of the Earth. Give me too much time, and I run out of it.
So I need an end to my time more. The certain knowledge that I’m not going to last forever, that I need to write today because I might not be there to write tomorrow. I need to be mortal…
So, if I’m to write, I need two things: mortality… and to be immortal. Two needs that are so desperately, beautifully conflicting, so entirely human, that maybe, in the end, I don’t need either of them.

Maybe the twin need of two impossible things is enough to allow me, to force me to write.

Because that balance, that conflict, that relentless, unceasing, eternal struggle also gives me something to write about. Something that humans have been putting into words for almost a forever. Wrapping it up in pretty words, shining scenery, plot twists, betrayals, but never letting it go. Hidden behind the slaying of dragons, the defeats of villains, the victory of the worthy. The struggle between Montague and Capulet, criminal and Sherlock Holmes, angel and demon, life and death, even just two sides of human nature.

Maybe this is where all our stories have come from. The desperate desire to stay alive fighting the desperate need not to live forever.

Because if all our stories stem from this one concept, so fundamental, so deeply rooted into our existences that we almost fail to notice it, recognising it instinctively but never knowing why, well… how can I resist the urge to add to that?

Olivia Thurlby
17 years old
Portsmouth High School