On writing: oh inspiration, where art thou?

Posted by Annalisa Conti on September 21, 2016.

My life has always been full of stories, up to a point where now my brain is trained to capture inspiration from pretty much everything and anything to create stories by itself, in a form of self-entertainment.

One of my first memories is related to a story. When I was about five years old, my parents rented an apartment for our summer vacation in a small village not far from Como Lake, in Italy. The little town was very charming, with its multicolored houses, a central square with a church and a bakery, a magnificent panorama on the lake, and a small chapel built to protect cyclists and honor the passage of the Giro d’Italia, the national multi-day cycling competition. Not far from the panorama on the lake, immersed in a pine tree forest nearby, there was a castle. It was not really a castle: it was an old big villa with a small tower on one corner, but to a five-year-old it looked like a castle, even slightly scary when the sun went down behind the hill.

As a joke, my dad told me that the Unnamed used to live in that castle, a few centuries ago. The Unnamed is a very well-known character in one of the most important works in Italian literature, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), an historical novel which takes place in 1628 Northern Italy, exactly on that branch of Como Lake that we used to admire from afar at the panorama every day. My dad started to tell me a revisited story of The Betrothed as bedtime episodes each night, day after day, and in his version the action had taken place in our own small village, where the two young protagonists, Renzo and Lucia, had lived in one of the oldest houses, had gone to the local church and the town hall, and had had to deal with the Unnamed, the terrifying local governor.

Those daily stories had my mind and my imagination fly even freer and wilder, and I believe they built the first blocks of my desire to invent stories myself.

I’ve been reading since as far as I can remember, stories first and novels afterwards, when I had grown old enough to understand them. My mother used to take me to the public library at least once per week, and there I would take four books each time: you could take up to two books per person, and I would use my mother’s card to get two extra entries for my week. I remember not finding anything to read in a few occasions: I had read all the books that I wanted to read, and I had to feverishly wait for some new additions the following week, or for a book that I hadn’t yet read to be returned by some other young readers. Going to the library was my weekly happy moment. I read my books as fast as I could, feeding on them, immersing myself completely in new worlds, different realities, fantastic stories, near or far from my own experiences.

Books and stories have always been my closest and dearest companions, and they have created and nurtured the demon of writing inside of me. Now that demon has completely taken control of me: this is why I write, and this is why a write many different things, and many of them at the same time: the demon keeps wanting more!