Anna-Leena Harkonen


Richard Goldschmidt/Alamy



If I hear a good story, I gradually begin to believe that it happened to me. I have also stolen memories from my sisters and adopted memories that are not true. Events that someone invented. Events that I invented.

The truth. Whatever it is.

MARGARET ATWOOD said that being too close to the truth is destructive, and authors must not be destructive. Sometimes I write a scene for a novel, and later the exact same thing happens to me or one of my friends. This has happened so many times that coincidence can be ruled out. 

Sometimes I feel that someone else is writing through me, that I’m being guided. Some say that being an author is just a profession among many others, but I disagree. It is an exceptional profession, the most fascinating and challenging one.

IT IS ALSO TEDIOUS, office work at its worst, as scintillating as slow folk dances. As a songwriter friend put it, “You spend the evening trying to think of a sentence that would fit the song. Eventually, you come up with the perfect line and fall on your bed, dead tired. First thing in the morning, you read what you have written—and cross it out because it’s shit.”

Most solutions are sheer accidents anyway: dead tired, the writer adds a sentence somewhere, and suddenly it belongs there. It always has. Readers find hidden meanings and a masterfully devised multilayered structure.

Writers do nothing to correct this misunderstanding, of course. 

I CARRY A SMALL notepad and pen everywhere I go; they fit nicely in my purse or pocket. But I haven’t always had pen and paper with me.

Once I was struck by staggering inspiration just before closing time at a bar. I had to write my immortal thought on my coat check ticket and lie to the doorman that I had lost it.

In the morning, I dug the ticket out of my pocket: “The time has finally come for me to accept that I will never sleep with Brad Pitt.”

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2022

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