I have never read The Satanic Verses, but Salman Rushdie pretty much taught me to write. By teaching me to actually think about writing. Of course, he had no idea, and we have only so far met in passing, but still.
It was another book of his that captured my imagination. Normally I would go on and on with detail, but I think it best, considering the circumstances, to stay vague here and this column is not about a particular book.
It is about art. The extraordinary art of writing. And it is about lessons. I’m choosing to leave the politics and crime writing to others for once.
The first words that ever jumped off a page at me and smacked me upside the head were Salman’s. And they frankly changed my world and desperately made me want to write.
“I wish I could write like that,” or “you are a poet” are things I say all the time to other writers I admire—and there are many—but it began with him.
But few of us can be poets.
Salman is not just a writer, nor just a dad. He is a poet. A writer for the ages. I did not think of him beyond controversy much until Christopher Hitchens mentioned him.
And so I read and I wrote. And wrote. And write. I’m never quite happy with the product, and certainly not a poet, but there is product. And I always want to “write like that.” And I’ll never, ever, stop trying.
Because of people like Salman.
It’s a funny thing, this, staring at a keyboard, switching words around, trying desperately to get it just right. Sometimes, like now with me, tears fall. And tears turn to good words and stories. And this is the primary lesson I speak of. You pour yourself into it and let the chips fall. Not just in writing, but in life. Leave nothing on the table.
Salman Rushdie has never left a thing on the table.
Of course, I don’t write long and thoughtful novels, but I write Things. And Salman, along with our late Christopher Hitchens who adored him, is the master of Things.
And there are so many others—past and present—who do the same. It is a wonder, which I really only thought about now, frankly, whilst Salman lies in an ICU.
I love writing. I hear from so many people of all colors, shapes, and sizes telling me that they would love to write, only if…
Only if what? Write. Think. Dream. Be real. Write that thing you want to write. What exactly is standing in your way?
Hitchens had this classic cheeky quote that went something like “everyone has a novel in them and in most cases that’s where it should stay.” And now more than ever, that’s off. Put it out there. For Salman!
I could go on, but you get the gist. There is nothing without inspiration, and this man has inspired millions, including the guy writing this column, as you may have noticed.
As I wipe the freshest tears from my keyboard, I quietly thank you, Salman Rushdie. For the art, for the lessons, and the dreams. Heal.
And as for you all: Write! But think.