As I wrote in my previous blog, I have been inspired to write again and part of that inspiration came from a writing prompt I found in a book by the Taconic Writers, The Write Stuff.
Exploring the question for myself, led to exploring the reason others have written. On a blog page by Alison Nastasi I found an article about 15 Famous Authors and why they write.
Here are a few of the quotes I related to. With each, I offer a short explanation of why I relate to their reasons.
Joan Didion who wrote about the moral chaos of the last part of the 20th century says, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?”
While not familiar with her work I am familiar with her sentiment. A bit of political , a champion of underdogs and a socialist with “Liberal” tendencies, I am passionate about injustice and fear the maniacal, narcissistic and sociopathic leaders who rise like sour cream in the milk bottle of life.
Don DeLillo, also concerned with “living in dangerous times”, has won two Pulitzer’s and contends, “Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments […] I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.”
He also said, writing “…frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture, but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
Yes I write to save myself, to explore the world I live in, to make sense of it. Perhaps I write to inspire change and common sense in a world gone mad.
Lord Byron, great romantic and author of Don Juan was inflicted with syphilis but contributes his lunacy to periods of not writing.
He said, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad,” he once confessed.
Sometimes the words want to pour out of my heart faster than my hands can keep up on the keyboard. In my journal, I use the ancient art of cursive writing and it forces me to slow my thoughts and reflect on feelings. When I write on this keyboard my fingers cannot move fast enough and trip, as my tongue sometimes does, over the words falling from my heart. The madness of not writing would be like placing a damn on a narrowing torrent.
Stephen King, is the author of my all-time favourite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, and others I would not even consider reading or watching. He says the best kind of writing as “intimate,” and in the end, all writing is about “enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” “It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy,” he said.
There are times I write in my blog that I have no idea if anyone would have the faintest inkling what I’m driving at but there is some hope it might enrich another’s life. Like Stephen King, though, for me, it is about enriching my own life and it makes me happy.
Gloria Steinem and I do not always agree although I do embrace many of her feminist views. About writing, she says, “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
With that, I can agree though I also feel very much like I should be exactly where I am and doing what I’m doing when I’m swimming in a lake.
Known for his stories, “In Cold Blood” and Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Truman Capote is a bit of a dark and intense figure. He was precise and meticulous about his word choices. About his writing, he said, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make,”
I too love the music of words. They are symphonies, jazz, operas and rock tunes and charge the mood of a room and a mind as much as any orchestra. Words are the songs before the music.
Simplicity was Ernest Hemingway’s purpose. He said, “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
Coming from a news writing background, as Hemingway did, I understand simplicity. When words become too big the music stops because it is not natural and honest speech. While a 50 cent word may describe something in a perfect and succinct way to the educated and demure, the penny words, used properly can drive spikes into the heart and draw sighs from the lips of anyone.
When I learned to write news stories they taught me to appeal to the vocabulary of the grade five. That is where I am most comfortable. Simplicity works.
His work as a fantasy novelist explains why I don’t know the work of Terry Pratchett but his sentiment that “writing is the most fun you can have by yourself,” is one I can certainly agree with. Yes, it’s even better than chocolate, though some days it takes a little chocolate to keep going.
I don’t think I’ve read a comic book since 1965 and that would have been ‘Archie’ not the detective work of Mike Hammer by Mickey Spillane but I like his idea that while some professions lose their ability, “a writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”
I can only hope that both my knowledge and wisdom will grow and that in everything I write, say and do it will show up and prove me to a better person today than I was yesterday.
While I am not likely to pick up “An Interview with a Vampire” by Anne Rice I can identify with her views of Christianity and of writing. A mother who lost a child at the age of six she says, “When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.” She adds, “I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.”
I too have known darkness. A terrifying house fire, an abusive marriage, the loss of a mother early in life, the death of my best friend and later my son to suicide have left their mark on everything I do. There is not a day when the influence of the darkness does not influence my thoughts. The darkness cannot help but enter into whatever I do, whether it is writing, helping a friend, supporting someone through a mental health issue or going to the beach. It is perhaps those dark things in our lives which are able to bring depth to our work and our words. They add shadow to the light and therefore perspective.
The Author of the Great American novel, the Great Gatsby, was F. Scott Fitzgerald. He too suffered some darkness in his life and perhaps sums up the reason to write by saying, “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”
What I have to say may be trivial compared to these greats but still, I have something to say. My writing may relate a moment or a memory. I may want to take on the status quo or rail against injustice. At times my writing reflects melancholy and other times joy. All of the time my writing is honestly me and while it is a place where I hide it is a place where I cannot hide.