Monday, January 5, 2009

why do you write?

You write because it's one of the few productive things you can do in bed, without reproducing.

You write because you love words, the shape of them, the way they fall on the page, with left-justifieds and ragged rights. You love the shape of the letters within the words themselves, like how the 'd' and 'b' in "bedbug" stand back to back, mirror images of each other. You love the incongruent pairing of words, like "horseradish." And you love words that sound like what they mean, like "tintinnabulation." Especially "tintinnabulation."

You write because you want to find the through line of your own life story. It's like a big, messy ball of yarn at this point, your through line, a ball that will demand your full attention at times when you wrestle with the tangled and thread-bare parts. At other times, the yarn will give way with a simple tug, and it will be easy to see where it begins, and where it ends. But more often than not, you'll be wrestling and detangling. Writing is that unravelling process that helps you tease out the knots. If you're patient, what you're left with, the through line, can then be made into something of value. Something for yourself that you can use to keep warm, or something for someone else, to be given as a gift.

You write because you remember. You remember that sixth grade paper, the one where you wrote a morality story about two characters named Choosey and Chances, the one Mrs. Rushton awarded an A +++ with big red, enthusiastic letters. You remember your eighth grade teacher, Ms. Nu, the one who was in love with Carl Yastrzemski, the one who encouraged you to enter an essay contest commemorating the anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. And you remember two college profs who encouraged your talent (Dr. Leiva) and challenged you to do something with it (Dr. Alyeto). You remember, and you honor them with your writing.

You write because you don't want to take anything for granted, the day-to-day details, the life-changing events. You want a record. Something to jog the memory down the road, something to show for the minutes and hours, the days and weeks and months, the years that you spent breathing and taking up space, also loving and giving of yourself.

You write because it's mostly hard to do well, and you love a challenge, but also because you love those rare instances when the page opens up for you, the words come, of their own volition, and line themselves up -- a perfect assembly of left justifieds and ragged rights, and all shapes and sizes and manner of words this consists of.

Most of all, you write because it keeps you sane. It keeps you on an even keel. It makes you a better wife/mother/human. And considered from this perspective, you write because you have to.
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