Why I Write
Everyone who writes arrives at the page with a story.
As a writer, crafting an essay about why write is a good way to sort things out. I’ll do so every 2, 3 or 4 years. Because I change. It’s fun to see that change percolate to the top in what I write afterward. It’s a way to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. As a teacher, I encourage students to write such an essay for their benefit, their sorting out.
But here I am writing about why I write a “why I write” essay. It’s time to get down to the basic question. A shy bookworm as a child, more comfortable with books and adults who liked to talk than kids, I wrote. Sometimes I scrawled stories, fantasies to escape; word pictures to dramatize my dreams; sometimes I wrote about myself. But however the words uncoiled, writing allowed me to express my feelings, what I couldn’t talk about but wanted to.
Today in maturity such expression is shared more in conversation than in younger days. In younger days, I listened. A lot. Sometimes when I pretended to listen, I daydreamed. And then, I’d write.
Today, it’s the stories that propel me to write, beginning early in my journalism career if not before. I loved to watch people, and really listen to them, to learn how they thought and felt and lived. Sometimes it was a measure for me. Sometimes I learned how to do what they did, whether it was tie up a boat or dance the twist. Always the people, though. SO, today I write stories about people, sometimes historical folk I’ve researched, sometimes everyday folk, fiction and nonfiction, and sometimes – as in recently – I write about myself, a somewhat jarring admission for a former journalist. But I like the reflective process it engages. Right now, I’m writing a cross between a journal and an essay about the death of a loved one. It helps select grief from depression and “take the next right step,” even if it’s back to bed for a bit. As I write, I’m more able to talk about it, grief, and best of all, to laugh through memories, though tears may fall on the next breath. Emotions. Feelings. Writing. Maybe, I haven’t changed that much after all. I just talk more.
Why do you write?
FAVORITES: There’s a trend now to illuminate “favorites,” so mine are…
BOOKS AND AUTHORS: John Jakes’ Bicentennial series. He got me started on this path toward fiction. Willie Morris’ North Toward Home and Gay Talese’s Kingdom and the Power introduced me to the story fascination of creative nonfiction.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. As a high school student I pondered, “how could an old man reach out and touch me across the generations?” His essays spoke what I wanted to say.
Today, Peter Heller, because of his lyricism, intrigue and humor, the ability to “take me away,” particularly with his novel Celine.
MOVIES: As a teen, James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. As a sort of sappy senior, or maybe it’s the times, “American President.” Laughter may be the most important requirement today.
SINGERS/MUSICIANS: Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. His notes tapped a tune on my teenage heart…and still do and so do later musicians–Cellist Yo Yo Ma, and Trumpeter Winton Marsalis. Let me not forget C&W story singer and philanthropist, Dolly Parton, her care about people and their stories.
FOOD: “Mama’s home cooking” and then enchiladas! And next, Pad Thai.
HOBBY/SPORT: Sailing, sailing, sailing. Water is my home.
FAVORITE HIKES: Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado; Lost Maples State Park, Texas, for their delicate beauty amid hardy ruggedness.
That’s enough for now. But you see how it’s easy to get carried away with writing? Try it. Ask yourself your favorites…and then the most important question, WHY? And see when/where you stop writing, if you can.
No, it isn’t the happy smile of a glass of wine or two…it’s the satisfied delight of having typed: THE END to an historical fiction novel. Yea. And now…what’s next?