Sunday, August 15, 2010
Why I Write
This is a rough draft. And it's going to be a quick one because it's bedtime.
They're all rough drafts, you know. That's what I like about a blog. I get to dialog with the readers. I like writing because it has a way of taking the random and dusty nuts and bolts and sometimes the blood and boogers rattling around inside of my head and makes some order from that chaos.
I had coffee with my friend B-- today. I love sipping something yummy and talking with friends about our lives, our experiences and children, pets, parents, pains and generally sharing the road for a time. It's nice to talk to B-- because he's a poet too. And a novelist, I hear. But despite his voluminous writings, he's yet to publish something. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure he knows why. I'm not sure it even matters to publish, especially if the pleasure lies primarily in the writing.
Maybe our motives are different. I write to communicate with a specific person or audience. If you've ever made a comment or talked to me about this blog, I'm thinking of you right now. I write letters to my Grandma because I want her to see Oklahoma and me from a nursing home in Washington. I take what someone offhandedly says and listen for that painful part, that question about existence. Then I do my best to articulate a position and hope it helps.
Sometimes I write because I am angry. I need to get things off of my chest. Injustice makes me angry. Unequal opportunities make me angry. Acting like I should and showing compassion and getting kicked for it makes me angry. So I write about it to remember that I'm not acting like a good or compassionate person because someone else needs me to be. I behave that way because I need to, in order to be the best person I can. That's why I write; to gain perspective. Otherwise I'm just drinking lots of coffee and cursing other drivers and not paying attention to the beautiful scenery that I've been afforded a slower look to see. You never know, that Indian Paintbrush plant may save my life someday.
It's often been said that writing is a solitary and lonely practice. After all, right now I'm sitting in the dark drinking water and typing. Quite alone, save for the cat on my lap and the two dogs in the other room (one is snoring, the other is farting). Images of Stephen King locking himself in his study with a big desk and Ernest Hemingway drinking himself to death in a house in Florida come to mind. Or Sam Beckett, who stopped having visitors, and Emily Dickinson whose father was the President of Amhurst but who lived the life of a recluse. Why do writers have to be so fucking crazy? I'm not alone metaphorically. Across time and space, you are reading this and knowing that you will makes me happy. Maybe if I were more crazy, I'd be a better writer. Maybe I am more crazy than I'm admitting right now..
I've never felt more connected than when I write. There are many other writers that I dialog with. I read my friend Ken Hada's book of poetry and borrowed the last line of one of his poems to complete my own. You should check out his blog by the way. Great fisherman/poet. Sometimes I feel the ghost of Mark Twain or Virginia Woolf creep in and read over my shoulder. Sometimes I think that if I print out everything I've written, it would spill off of the printer and make it's own little paper river, a small tributary leading to a larger river of papyrus voices that takes us out to a sea thoughts and random fun, dark, mysterious, silly, chilling and thought provoking writing from the rest of the world. I feel a kinship with people who drew on rocks and cave walls. They're gone, but I still think about them. I can stand in the very spot where someone once stood, thinking of the best way to convey just what the hell was going through his mind so it could be remembered later. It might be important, he must have thought. And he was right. I think it's very, very important to write and to read and to talk to each other the way we do.
I know my reservations about publishing my poetry. What if it's not any good? What if nobody cares? What if I hurt someone? What if I say fuck too much and offend my Great Aunt Dorothy? Worse, what if I write something that isn't true? I badgered B-- a little and he let me read a poem in his journal. And it was good. It was as rough draft, like this little ditty here, only it doesn't need much revision and I was able to easily grasp the scheme, repetition and some of the layers of meaning on the first few passes. I gave him some unsolicited feedback and told him what I liked about it.
That's it- it boils down to one thing and one thing only: vulnerability. How much risk do I dare take? Who is even paying attention? What if I write something and the world sees me naked, sees me as the person I really am? This is both the fear and thrill of writing.