Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thinking about Radagast's question yesterday

Which was, if you'll recall, why do I want to write.

And here's the deal. I had to think about it. Which surprises me. It seems like I should have a ready answer for that.


If you were to ask my mother why I write, she'd say, "Because my daughter has to." I love it when she says that, because it's kind of cinematic. Like, I could be in a Gene Kelly movie shouting GOTTA SING! GOTTA DANCE! ALSO, GOTTA WRITE WHILE I'M AT IT! (One of the things I love best about my mother, incidentally, is her flair for the dramatic.)

But really I don't feel that way about myself. After spending hours (and hours) (and more hours) writing a piece about Emma Lou Thayne for the Trib, I feel like she's one of those people. Pen and paper are always nearby for her. She really HAS to write in the same way she has to breathe or eat. Me, on the other hand? I can easily go for weeks w/o writing. But not eating. As we all know.

I always make my way back to the writing thing, though. I feel . . . obligated to do it somehow.

In the end, I think I write because when I write I understand how I experience the world. I also write because I like to connect with an audience. And finally I like the feel of words and how you can make something out of them the same way you turn yarn into socks.

BTW Radagast is an awesome poet. I thought I should just tell you.


Lisa B. said...

I am thinking a lot about this same question lately. Mainly, I think, because I let writing get away from me, or me from it, and because the question of why--when I feel it's so lethally hard to get things published--I keep writing.

I don't really have an answer that's very compelling right now. But I remember when I felt that I wrote because I could, because I was good at it, that being good at it was its own reward, and that making things out of words (like socks out of yarn) was a wonderful, mysterious, ineffable thing to do. I am hoping to get back to that sense of things, or to another sense of things that feels equally compelling.

Thanks for this post. I appreciated it.

James said...

Great post. I have been into lists lately. Here are a couple of lists

Reasons I don't write:
1. its hard
2. no time
3. Can't think of anything to write

My reason for why YOU write:
1. So I can read your words.

I don't really care why you write. I am just glad you do. Bring it on.

Alyosha said...

So, this is weird. I read this post on google reader on my phone and it resonated so much with me that I wanted to make a long comment, which meant I went to the computer so I wouldn't have to type a long comment on my phone. But for some reason, when I saw "Ann," I thought it was Ann Dee Ellis, whose blog I also follow. So I went there to write my comment, but the post wasn't there. So I had to go into my Reader to find which blog it was, and when I found out it was YOU that felt this way, I was surprised.

Anyway, this is exactly how I feel about writing. I remember sitting in Martine Leavitt's class at WIFYR four years ago when I was so totally clueless and she made us all take five minutes to write down why we write and why we came to the conference. Then we had to read it out loud to the class and EVERYONE talked about how writing was a PART OF THEIR SOUL and they couldn't LIVE without writing and they always just HAD to write every single day. Then I read mine, which said something like, "I think it's sort of fun and I'm sort of good at it and my husband made me come to this conference." And I thought, this is who I'm competing against to get published? A bunch of people who are completely dedicated and passionate all the time? I don't stand a chance.

But, I keep coming back to it. I don't really like it and it's hard, but that just makes me more proud when I stick to it. Last night I was dreading writing (so tired) when I came across this quote from Sara Zarr's bio on her blog:

Sometimes I think I could have just as easily not been a writer. For example, by not writing, because of fear or self-doubt or not feeling entitled to give it a try. Or by watching more TV instead. Or giving up when I couldn’t figure out what happened next in a story, or after the first five years of rejection, or after I lost my first agent, or after the second five years of rejection. Et cetera. I’m still aware, every day, that this career is mine to keep or lose. There lots of things from the business side of things I can’t control, but if I don’t keep writing I definitely will not be a writer.

After reading that, I wrote for three hours. And ended up with a whopping four pages. But at least I wrote.

LucindaF said...

Sometimes my fingers talk better than my mouth. I don't know that I've fully processed something until I write it down. Whether that be in an email or blog or post or even a text.

For me, writing is a complete dedication to emotion. And that scares me. I have issues with trust. (who doesn't?) And I don't know that I trust myself to fully invest and commit to something solely for my own benefit. I think somewhere in my mind I feel like I don't deserve it. Yes, there are the readers and the connection to others that comes from writing, but it's the hurdle before that that I keep stumbling over.

To write, I have to let go of some control. And at certain points in my life, that feels far too daunting.

Donna said...

The reason I write changes almost daily. Sometimes I write to alert people to a wrong that must be made right. Sometimes I write because I am very sad...words can heal. And sometimes I write just because I love to see the words come together...Aaron Sorkin wrote a scene for West Wing once that had 2 speech writers trying to nail a congratulatory letter. It wasn't to a head of state or anyone really important, but they moved the words around, took it out, changed it...and refused to stop until they nailed it. I think about that scene sometimes....we all know that sometimes we just phone it in...but sometimes, we nail it. That is why I write, because sometimes, I nail it, and maybe no one else likes it, but it captured the feeling or just the day...

radagast said...

Aw. Thanks, Ann. That means a lot, especially coming from such a primo writer. And thanks for taking a stab at answering that question. It was a truly sad experience for me, recently, to think back on all the answers I once had for that question and realize that they no longer apply. I admire writers like you who have been at it as long as I have and still find reasons to pick up a pen or open a laptop. I hope one reason, for you, is that you realize people like me get such joy from your writing. So, yeah, apparently my next writing niche is writing ponderous responses to blog posts!