Kent has been asking our blogging group “Why do we write?”. I’ve thought about this a lot and the and following is something I wrote a few years ago with this question in mind:
BECAUSE I MUST (February 6, 2006)
If I don’t write regularly I become irritable. I’ve tried it. Not writing for more than a couple of days feels as though something essential is missing, something vital. Writing in a journal counts so for most of my life I’ve kept a journal instead of taking the more serious route of producing something someone else might read. It’s easiest to write journal entries because no revising is expected although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that flinging my thoughts onto paper without polishing is the more satisfactory way to go.
Several years ago when I asked a psychic for advise on other things, she told me that if I wrote everyday that everything else would fall into place for me. I think she was trying to tell me that I’d be less irritable if I wrote. It was such a relief when I heard her news because I knew she was right. It was as if she was giving me permission to spend some time each day doing what I enjoyed most. It seemed like someone understood me more than I understood myself. After that it felt like self punishment if I didn’t write regularly even if in just a journal.
I’m reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a fable about following your dreams. It says that we know our dreams when we are children but we lose sight of them. Of course this is not new news, hypnotherapists will recommend a regression to your childhood if you want to remember your dreams. Do I need a regression to see if writing is truly my dream? Hardly. I’ve never forgotten that I was meant to write I’ve just never taken it seriously enough. I’ve pretended that other endeavors were more important or given myself all kinds of excuses not to write. I have been very creative in coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t be committed to writing, why I should spend my time and energy on other things that have far less meaning to me. I’m certain I’m not alone in this. It’s a common story told in in a variety of different ways.
I have taken writing seriously several times in my lifetime but I’ve never taken it very far, never given honest effort in publishing anything for example. It’s as though I’m afraid of something, most likely being found out that I have prejudices, judgments and other shortcomings. Why do I care what people think? I don’t know, but I‘m working on it. So the cycle is that I write, and even seriously with commitment, but I run up against my desire to publish, to share my stories with others and I get stuck. Then my passion fades when my work stays confined within my writer’s group and personal files. That’s when “WHY BOTHER!” begins to dominate my thoughts and once again the dream to write falls away.
“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.” Vincent Van Gogh.
Why do I write? “Because I must”, said some artist about painting (probably Picasso but I’m not certain). When I write in a journal it’s like dusting the cobwebs from my mind, cleaning out the junk that clogs up my thinking. Writing down my thoughts allows me to follow through with them more fully than if they stay in my head. I often get an “uh huh” when I jot down my observations, my concerns and fears in a way that helps me to move on to new ideas. Journal writing is like stretching and essential for keeping my writer’s muscles alive and strong for the real thing. The real thing being developing ideas into stories. The real thing being creating. It’s creating that elevates me into another level of joy. Perhaps similar to a pianist practicing scales then moving into performing. The joy of writing is an experience difficult to explain in words even for a budding writer. It’s like trying to adequately explain to someone who doesn’t have children what it means to be a parent. I can give some idea of what it’s like but a person has to experience it to really get the jest of it. The magic of it. The exhilaration of it. The “my life has meaning” feeling it gives me.