Hello, fellow readers and writers!
I assume that you’re reading this because you’ve either read a story, essay, or novel that I’ve written or are thinking of doing so. Or maybe you just wonder who these people are who call themselves writers and why in the world do they try to write something that another person might enjoy, laugh at, learn from, or be enlightened by?
Let me assure you that writers are a lot like everyone else. Like you, we study and go to work; we sometimes give birth to and raise children; we make dinner, do laundry, vacuum up dog hair (daily for me!), watch TV, read our favorite books, worry about Ukraine, attend plays and concerts, play sports and instruments, sing our hearts out, fall in and out of love; we argue with and make up with our loved ones; we ponder and fail to comprehend the meaning of life; we daydream about other lives and lifetimes. We do all of that, but we also sit our bums in the chair and daydream on paper or at the computer keyboard.
The question is why. Why do we subject ourselves to trying to communicate an idea or concept? Why do we attempt to fabricate a world that others can also possibly envision or experience? Why do we write an essay, story, or novel and then send that piece of writing into the cosmos and wait sometimes for months or years to see if anyone thinks it’s worth reading? Sounds foolish, doesn’t it?
Speaking for myself, I’d have to venture a guess as to why I foolishly sit my bum in that chair and write. My guess is that I write for multiple reasons. Sometimes I write just to find out what I actually think. To discover what’s going on in my brain. Other times I write because it’s a challenge. Can I free write based on a prompt about riding to Las Vegas on the back of a Harley? What about the challenge of writing a story based on an image of a woman who resembles a bird and attends strangers’ funerals or an essay about a fragile white-haired woman who walks with two canes past my house every day? Sometimes I write to remember and honor a family member, to tell their story because they’ve lost their ability to tell their own story. Sometimes I’m compelled to write a novel because I’m haunted by what writer Emma Donoghue calls a “scrap of history” -- about the fact that the brilliant and influential 18th-Century feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft died of a retained placenta after giving birth to the baby who would become Mary Shelley. And the unbelievable fact that the attending physicians brought in puppies to nurse Mary Wollstonecraft’s breasts in order to release the toxic afterbirth. I wanted to imagine what she may have been thinking or feeling as she lay dying. Sometimes I just write in a journal in order to not be alone mulling things over in my eccentric and busy brain.
Even if we aren’t storytellers, I believe that we all have a story to tell. In her epic poem Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning suggests that we create our better selves through writing. So, finally, perhaps I write to conceive and give birth to my better self. I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to write in order to find out.