Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why write?

Writing is nebulous. Sometimes, I think of it as an energy that grows or shrinks as I pay more or less attention to it. Sometimes, it feels like a raw nerve that twitches when I touch it. 

It electrifies my life. And sometimes, it slips out of my hand and falls into the outer world. I find myself losing the connection, trying to join again with it, trying to solidify this relationship.

If you are a writer, you might be constantly looking for answers to questions: Why do I write? Why do I want to write? Who do I write for? Sometimes, like me, you might be using these questions as excuses to stop yourself from writing. You might also think that knowing the answers will help you.

I have been grasping at these questions. They matter to me because they clarify what I am trying to do. And I am learning that like a child, knowing the answer, knowing the reason helps me do the work. I can't will myself to do it. I can't jump into it and do it. 

I have a cautious nature, and maybe the reason I have not been moving forward is because I have been expecting myself to imitate what I think strong, adventurous people do. While the truth is that I need these answers. 

I need to gently pull myself forward, instead of getting into a battle of wills against myself. Yesterday, I opened Natalie Goldberg's Thunder and Lightning, and came happily to an essay called “But who is listening?” I had read it before, but I felt closer to the words. 

Natalie says: “I never wanted to write to my grandmother and grandfather. They were my audience my whole childhood, not a beat off. I spoke in the moment and they listened. No gap. Maybe it's the gap, the feeling that someone isn't listening, doesn't get it, has half heard us, that compels us to write and explain. That's why we turn around and speak to our past, as if others can hear us now, as if we can finally hear ourselves and catch our fleeting lives.”

That is one reason for writing. This need to bridge the gap. This need to be heard and mirrored back, hopefully by someone, somewhere who we don't know, but who knows this precious part of us. There are other reasons. 

Sometimes, when I am writing, I feel like I am shaping clay, and while I am attempting to make something, this something is also changing me, bringing me into relief. There is also this reductive part of me that wants to arrive at a linear conclusion. That's uncomfortable with spontaneous movement, that hangs behind the rock and never wants to come out. It always want to play safe. 

I used to read Natalie's books and feel myself drawing back, trying to protect myself, unseated by the twists and turns of her mind. Now, I am more comfortable with the ride. I am a shade more comfortable with uncertainty. 

I like this feeling, this sense of free-falling and yet, somehow, landing on my feet. I can't get up the nerve to do it often, but doing it, when I can let myself, is freeing. I have always been looking for freedom.

As I work to stretch my relationship with writing, to get out of the little boxes that I cage myself in, I see the ways in which I limit myself. I have no trust. I am always trying to think about the future. 

One part of me – the hack – wants to strategize and do the least amount of work. It's always on the lookout for what will legitimize me as a writer. The other part pulls back from these machinations, it's turned off by them, but doesn't quite have the faith to go it alone, to walk in the darkness. Screaming in their midst is the child who feels the pain of all the unfolding, the pain of the growth. It doesn't want to feel. It just wants to sit there and dream.

It's no wonder that we can lock ourselves in one place.

Today, I think the child in me needs a little bribing. It's sore, and I don't treat it well. I try to push it. It pulls back. 

Where is the fun in all this, it asks? Where are the trees growing upside down? The enchanted forest with streams that run into dragon mouths? Why is everything so plain? Where is the enchantment?

Too much reality is not good for me. Delusion is also not good. It has drowned me in the past, taken me away from myself. But this reality – of clip-clopping along, of thinking that everything worldly is good and grounded – this isn't good either. 

I need my reality tempered with magic. I need it tempered with hope. I need my writing to cook these things up, in a dancing pot. I want a magic potion that will wake me up and make me dance, instead of plodding along like a mule.

All words are not made equal. Maybe right now the words that you need, the words that will nourish you, are words you will form into a story, throw with abandon into the wind. At another time, maybe the words you need are the words that face things head on. Maybe you will write an essay then, or an article.

What are the words that you need today? Are you writing to connect? Or to dissolve? Do you want to play? Or be serious? Which part of you is coming forth? 

Why are you writing today? 

Listen to this post!


  1. very beautiful ,you read with such a good accent . God bless you more progress in life ,facing all challenges .