Writers write. Sounds simple.
Neither is answering the question “why?” Why do writers write? I’ve been thinking about that, even more so after reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which is a great book about writing. How to approach writing. How to sit down and DO it. The ultimate question is “what do you really want out of writing?”
After pondering that question for a while, it became evident to me that I can’t nail it down to just one reason. It’s really three. The first is the most evident: I write to communicate. I want to share my own observations, feelings, and thoughts to see if anyone else out there sees and feels the same way, or if I’m just plain out of my mind.
Some of the best writers have been a bit mad — divinely so. David Bowie was, in his own words, a writer. “Taking away the theatrics and the costuming and the outer layer, I’m a writer,” Bowie said. “I started examining the subject matter I write about, and it really only boils down to a few songs based around loneliness to an extent, coupled with isolation, some kind of spiritual search, and a looking for a way into communicating with other people. And that’s about it. That’s all I’ve written about for 40 years. It hasn’t really changed. I’ve dressed it in different ways throughout my life. Trying to find a different approach each time, trying to find another way into the questions by kind of disarming them, creeping up on them as somebody else or whatever.”
Although I would never put myself in the same category as The Thin White Duke, I write for the same reason: to say “hey, this is how I’m feeling — tell me I’m not alone” and then throw it out to the world to see if it resonates, if I can make a connection.
I also write as a cathartic exercise. To “download,” if you will, the things rattling around in my head. If they’re written down, I don’t have to carry them all the time. And sometimes, it’s just easier for me to find the right words when I’m writing. When I can play with the words on the page, it helps me find the ones that are just right. I always say “spit it out on the table and we’ll sort it out there.” If I don’t like what I’ve written, I can go back and change it; which is really quite awkward to try and do while speaking.
Catharsis, or “emptying,” is a great means of working through a problem. Journaling is an oft-suggested means of working through personal issues; a blog is simply a public delivery method of that journal (which occasionally leads the reader to assume it’s a “cleaned up” version; but I can tell you first-hand that’s not always the case: you all are subjected to some of my unedited, unfiltered thoughts. I’ll just issue a blanket apology here.)
Finally, I write for what boils down to vanity, of a sort: I want to leave something of myself behind in this world, a legacy. Mostly for my son. I want him to be able to proudly bring up a column of mine, or pull out a magazine article (and hopefully at least one novel) and say “My Mom wrote that.” I want my dearest friends to say with pride “I know the woman who created that.”
I want people whom I know — and those I don’t know — to see by my own example that it’s never too late to change your life, to recreate yourself, to find happiness. It doesn’t happen overnight. But in the last six-plus years, I ultimately realized “This is not what I want. This is not working. I am barely alive inside. I need a different life.” When you can finally say “this is not what I want,” then you can start asking “what DO I want?” And that’s when creating the change can begin, and then you can say “THIS is what I want.”
Awaking to the idea that you DO have a choice of how you want to live is like being told you can eat all the chocolate cake you want without gaining a pound. At first, you don’t believe it. Then you make a couple of those “self” decisions, and it’s all good and positive. And then, as you continue making decisions about YOUR life, you do begin to believe. And it’s life-altering. It’s liberating. And you want to cry because you think of the time you spent NOT making those decisions. But once you get a taste for it, that amazing calorie-less cake, the more you want it! (Now if only the ACTUAL chocolate cake could ACTUALLY be calorie-less, I’d be set for life. Alas…)
Although I am so happy with the changes I’ve made, I did wait, and I have mourned the time I lost. I’ve also learned that change isn’t always easy. It’s not always pretty. There are a lot of pitfalls and false starts. But it’s ok. All of it.
I found my inspiration in several strong women — who, by coincidence or not, are also writers. I watched. I read. I learned. Then it was time to try out myself. And I’m still watching and reading and learning. And I’ll try something else. Watch, read, learn, repeat. The actual process of change has made me happy, too. I’ve found my voice — and it may be little, but it’s mine.
Now I’m using my little voice, and I’m reaching people all over. That makes me bolder, so I reach out to more; bolder still, even more…. and I am happy, and my son sees me happy… and I am showing him how I found the path to my “happy” and tell him often I know he’ll find his way to his own path. (And I hope he finds his much earlier than I found mine.)
To all the artists and writers, painters and singers, musicians and creators: when you share with others, you are creating a light by which others can see.
“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams…
…we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.”
~ Arthur O’Shaughnessy “Ode 1874”
Until Friday, Friends. Cheers!