Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Write?

Over the years I have read many treatises about writing, how to write, and why people write. Some of the best such books on my shelf include The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner, and On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.

Missing from my shelves because I loaned them out and the books were never returned are Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer and Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. These are my favorites and I suppose I will have to buy them again. Maybe I will do that today.

Over the years I have held many conversations with myself in my head as to why I write. I seldom write these down because I could never say so eloquently that which the writers above have already put forth. Ultimately writers write for as many reasons as there are writers, though. Each person has a unique reason for needing to put words to paper (or pixels to screen, as the case may be).

Writing once was the domain of only the very gifted and the creative and everyone else found it agonizingly painful. The Internet seems to have changed this, taking writing from the domain of the talented and placing it squarely in the realm of the casual. When something is reduced from the sacred calligraphy of a Shakespeare play to the insipid and uninspiring level of a tweet or a text message, obviously the medium has been reduced to a water-down nothingness that makes it as common as toilet tissue and perhaps as well-used.

And yet there are still talented folks out there writing their hearts out, lads and lasses who find their desire to express themselves so intense that their heads, if not their hearts, would ache if they could not spend time crafting fine sentences and telling tale tells. Myriad books and websites appeal to these folks, telling them that they too can "be a writer" and have all that such a title affords.

I'm not sure anymore what "be a writer" means anymore. Does it mean to sit at the computer and write keyword articles that are, let's be honest, nothing more than crap? Is that being a writer? Does it mean toiling over a long work that will never sell unless you self-publish so that your auntie can buy it? Does it mean journaling every day in a notebook that no one will see until your life force has fled your aged body? Does it mean working for a newspaper and hustling to meet a deadline? Does it mean being an eccentric soul, hunkered down and living a solitary life, struggling always with words? What does it mean?

"One has to be just a little crazy to write a great novel," writes Gardner (56). "... if one is lucky the lightning strikes, and the madness at the core of the fictional idea for a moment glows on the page" (61). Is all of this Internet writing a symptom of sanity, then, while those who slave away in a darkened room, seldom seeing the light of the moon, are a little less than normal?

Goldberg says that, "people often begin writing from a poverty mentality. They are empty and they run to teachers and classes to learn about writing. We learn by doing it. That simple" (30). So are we all writers, then, all of us bloggers, all of those keyword writers and website builders and texters and tweeters? And if we all are writers, what then is so special about writing, and why do people still seek it out as if it is some Holy Grail to covet and honor?

"You must become one with the details in love or hate; they become an extension of your body . . . Caress them, touch them tenderly. Care about what is around you." (Goldberg 45). Is this, then the difference? Passion? Is that what makes someone a writer?

So why do I write? Is it to have written?

Writing is something I have always done; it seems so much a part of me that I could not let it go even if I wanted. Even now, when I am in a really serious drought with my writing, when there are days I wonder where the words are, I still write almost daily here in my blog. Is this writing? At this juncture I know longer know.

Passion is key; that I do know. Passion and a kind of eagerness to see where the story will lead, to what end. Passion is flow and harmony and yet at the same time jagged like a blood-soaked knife, and just as painful.

It is the end and the beginning, this writing. Alpha, Omega, Amen.


  1. Yes, your blog counts as writing. I just asked myself that very question 2 minutes ago.

    You write because you can not not write.


  2. I don't know but I can't stop doing it I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and I jot a few things down while half asleep. In the morning, I'm always surprised at what I wrote.

  3. I resonate more with Goldberg than any other writer on writing. I think of writing as an extension of thinking. So I "think" you have to be a good thinker to be a good writer. I haven't always written (well I did have diary at age 10) but I have always thought like a writer. I started my writing life with poetry at about the age 18.


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