My sophomore year in college, I took a creative writing class. The class was sure to help improve my writing, spark my imagination, and induce cold sweats and heart palpitations.
“Your first assignment,” George the professor announced, “is to write an essay. Tell me why you write.”
Oh. Yeah. That’s easy. Right?
At the time, I didn’t have my own computer. I had to sit in the computer lab (kids, this is what they used to call the tiny little room in the school library where they kept the Apple 2E machines).
“Why do I write?” I asked. Possibly aloud. “I don’t really know.”
Sitting in front of the black screen, green letters scrawled out across it, I couldn’t really answer that question. It was far too loaded. Far too deep for me to reach without falling into some gross stuff I didn’t want to touch.
I didn’t want to admit that, back then, I wrote so that people would see me. That they would know me. I wanted them to hear my hurt, joy, frustration, confusion. My angst.
And I wrote fiction so that they wouldn’t know it was ME they saw.
Oh. The angst.
But, back then, I didn’t have the courage to write that down. I couldn’t really articulate that. I was nineteen. Still a chid in so many ways. So, I wrote about the hula dancer bobble head that sat on my desk back at the dorm. I think I might have claimed her as my Muse. That she forced me to write…or something really silly.
My defense mechanism? Silliness.
Shoot. Now you know.
Since that day, I’ve pondered the question. Why do I write? Why bother?
I have spent hours writing. Far more than would consume a full time job. And I’ve made…well…not a lot of money doing it (seriously, writers aren’t rich unless they’re Stephen King).
Why do I even bother?
I’m no longer the little girl writing to be seen.
I’ve grown up. Had careers and losses. I’m in a beautiful marriage to a man who loves me. We have crazy, wild, wonderful children. I don’t need to be seen.
Sitting here at the desk in my kitchen, typing away on my MacBook (far cry from the 2E), I read something that made me say, “Yup. That’s it.”
John D. Blase is a poet, editor, author, cool guy. He blogs over at The Beautiful Due. On Facebook, he wrote what he looks for in writing and I wanted to share it with you (I did get his permission, of course).
“I’m interested in writing that speaks of life lived on this dark and marvelous planet, writing that honors dying and sex and cottonwood trees and lower-middle-class cabernet and your daughter’s faded red robe that hangs behind the door and the fact that your grandfather poured cream in his cereal instead of milk. I’m interested in writing that smells and tastes and feels, writing that makes the marrow burn. I’m not interested in any other kind of writing.”
I read that. Just a simple Facebook status update. And I thought, “Yes. There it is.”
No hula girls or monster computers. No hiding or screaming to be heard.
I write to speak of life. And to honor. And to burn the marrow.
And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only writing worth while.
Your turn. Tell me, if you will, why you do what you do!