Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why I Write.

I'm planning on making a YouTube video on this topic, so I thought I'd collect my thoughts here.

This is such a complicated, multi-layered subject. Something you may or may not know about me is that I played tennis for most of my life up until five years ago. My relationship with tennis is tangled and weird and confusing. My relationship with writing is the same, but if tennis is shroud in shadow, writing is cast in light. Although, similar to a yin-yang symbol, neither one is absolute.

There's a picture of me in one of many childhood photo albums where I'm holding up a piece of paper, either the same size as my body or larger, and I've written out my name. I look really pleased with myself. I don't remember how old I am in the photo, but by that point, I was definitely a fan of paper, pens, pencils, crayons, and markers. I was also a little reader. My mom and dad read to me every night--Little House on the Prairie with Mom, and the classic Berenstain Bears books with Dad (we probably read those well past the intended age bracket). Mom liked good stories, usually historical fiction, and Dad liked morals.

I have stacks and stacks of journals (rarely is one completed), containing half-formed poems, songs, and, well, rants. I have a memory of carving several pages worth of my favorite swear word at the time after a row with my dad. I'm aware the narration of these diaries is of very low caliber, and I cringe to think of the spelling and grammatical errors that run rampant. However, these journals are some of the first places I began to organize my thoughts, dreams, ideas, and stories.

I guess you could say I was drawn to writing even before I understood what the craft entailed. I wrote with free abandon, letting the words come out of me. I did nothing to organize these nebulous lines; my poetry was horrible. My reading was of similar low station (although there are exceptions)--I gulped down shitty young adult fiction, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the more literary texts we read in school. I simply did not consider that I could read classics on my own. I did not know what contemporary fiction was. And I certainly didn't read poetry on my own. Although I loitered the poetry section of my local bookstore, whenever I leafed through Whitman or Plath, the obscurity of their words shut me out. I desperately wanted to "get" it, but I did not.

I joined a writing group in high school, and this experience shaped me irrevocably. I tend to hyperbolize, but this is not an occasion of that. Here I learned to give shape to my words--not well, but the idea was laid down. I rubbed shoulders with wonderful, intelligent, and kind people, and created lasting memories of good conversation over warm cups of coffee after the café had closed. It was a safe space for me to go when so many other things in my life were uncertain.

I knew I was an English major before I even knew what majors were. Right before I formally submitted the paperwork, I flirted with being a Philosophy major. But that only lasted for a moment, and so I embarked on my English-majoring journey. Additionally, I went into college with a Creative Writing concentration and thoroughly enjoyed my introductory course despite the abundance of nursing majors who where there to fulfill their humanities requirement. Studying creative writing in college and taking workshop-based classes helped me sharpen my style and voice and taught me to read widely. I did a directed study in which I observed my advisor write a non-fiction book-length piece, and the thesis statement of that reflective essay essentially reads, "in order to do the thing, you must do the thing." A writer writes.

Am I writing? Yeah! Not as rigorously as some, but consistently enough. I could always write more. We all could. Yet I have my goals and my projects and I chip away. And that is good.

But why do I do the thing? It's like this--because I want to. Because despite the blood, sweat, and tears, it mostly brings me joy. Because if I don't do it, I get cranky. Because it's an outlet. A call. A religion. (Haha, maybe. I don't know). (But it is definitely those other things).

Why do we do anything? I think we are responsible for creating the meaning that is the lining in the fabric of our lives, and so because I attribute worth to writing, that is why I find it worth doing.