Monday, January 14, 2013

Why I Write

I am a writer. I am one of many. It's easier than ever to write; it's easier than ever to call yourself a writer. But why do we write? Why do I write? I think the question is really two fold: one, why do I write at all, and two, why do I keep at it with such persistence.

I have always thought the most profound thoughts people have, and will ever have, are not the ones they write down, but the ones they keep locked inside their heads. The owners of such thoughts do not even try to write them out, because their thoughts are simply too big, too complex, too profound to contain and repress into words.
Words are limited, you see. No matter how much we glorify and even cherish them, they are nothing but little etches of lines and symbols we use to convey meaning. We need them, we rely on them, we survive on them, but they are not perfect.

Writers are constantly taking leaps of faith. We hope we can translate our deepest thoughts, our most shattering emotions, into words, and the words we pick will be virtuous. They will not taint the purity of our meaning with implications or suggestions we did not intend; they will not corrupt the message they are meant to convey. They will realize their goal, accomplish their task, the very reason why we put down ink to paper in the first place.
The slate was clean before, an empty void; we came, put words down, and created...meaning.
Or something.
What it is exactly we create is up to the reader.

And that is the problem every writer must face. We can never assume our meaning will be understood exactly the way we want it to be, because many times, it's just not possible. Our feelings are our own; like souls, no two are exactly alike. We can try to thrust them into words, press and mold them until we think the words we've chosen are perfect, but once they are consumed by the reader through the eyes, they shed their form once more, and become something new, something that belongs solely to the reader. It is magnificent, and it is horrifying.

Any writer will tell you, we write because it's a compulsion: writers have to write. But that doesn't exactly answer the question, does it?
When I write, I am taking something magical, something monstrous, a thought, a feeling, a sense of truth and beauty and wonder in the world, a sense of what it is to be alive, and I am forming this flash of immortal consciousness into words. Trapping it inside there, really. I give it flesh; I give it substance. I give it a body.
I am playing God.
It is the very magic of writing. The thoughts are in all of us, the very breath of life, and when we write, we are breathing this life into words.

I know the words, once formed, are out of my control; they are free to run off and cause all kinds of mayhem and look stupid. But I do my best to build them up right. I do my best, because I know when they look stupid, I look stupid, and I don't want them causing harm. But at some point, I have to trust in them, trust in myself, and be done with them.
I let them go.
They take a piece of me with them.
Is this how God felt?

When I write, I am humbled. I am scared. I am hopeful. Sometimes, I am proud, but that comes later, after I learn what pleasure my words have brought to someone else. Sometimes, I am ashamed.
But while I am writing, during the process itself, I feel closer to God than in any other way I can. More than prayer, more than worship, writing is what brings me closer to the divine.

It is horrifying, and it is magnificent.


  1. And your words are lovely, and breathtaking.

  2. I have enjoyed your blog for quite sometime now, which led me to read the Hotel Bentmoore books. I enjoyed them as well. You have cracked me up, made me think and turned me on. Keep writing! It is no surprise you feel closer to God when you is your gift:)