Craft: Why I Write

Story Time:

I went through a long phase—mostly in adolescence—of being what I can only call fabulously inarticulate. Part of this was due to an innate shyness that made it hard to communicate clearly, particularly with strangers, but part of it was more elusive. Even when I did try to describe or explain something, I always had a nagging feeling that my actual idea was much more complex than what was coming out of my mouth. The simple phrase never seemed adequate. It omitted so much in terms of delicacy and nuance. I always felt like I was forgetting something.

I think there’s a definite tendency in one’s teenage years to rend one’s hair and be very theatrical and say But no one understands me! I sympathize with that. In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t actually given to a whole lot of rending (it made people look at you), but still, I’d say something and people would nod and I would have one of those Prufrock moments and think that is not what I meant at all.

This little story is not the reason I write now, but it’s why I started writing. My idea was that I would practice organizing and expressing my thoughts on paper, and eventually that would translate into spoken words and I would be able to express myself in Real Life. The punch-line, of course, is that over time I mostly just got better at expressing myself on paper. But I’m okay with that. Fiction gives me the opportunity to be articulate in the ways that matter most to me.

Because there are subtleties. There are facets that don’t always translate well in conversation, and sometimes, like Tessa said in her post, you can only really get to them by lying. If you can bend the language, if you can manipulate words, and make each word stand in for a tiny thought or a snippet of emotion, the lie starts to look real, and then, a certain beautiful cross-section of the population says, Hey, I get it. Which is really all I wanted in the first place.

What about you? Why do you write?

5 thoughts on “Craft: Why I Write

  1. I write for different reasons. I write stories because an idea or a phrase or a moment came into my head and I have to follow it home to see where it lives. I may kill it in its sleep and burn down the house to prevent it from bothering anyone else, or I may give it a job and let it grow – depends on the idea, really.

    As to the non-fiction sort of essays, I write them as acts of will. I’ll find something, an idea or notion, floating in the collective conscious ether, and by giving it structure and words I make it real. Once it’s spoken, it’s a conscious act of will, and as a witch I believe that acts of will alter the fabric of the world. This is why I try not to give voice very often to hate, fear, or anger, because I think they have enough spokespeople and don’t need my energy or will adding to their power. I try to speak or write the world I want to live in, in hopes that by giving structure and power to those ideas, and by getting others to consider those ideas and maybe change their actions as a result, I can slowly drive the world towards the ideals and ideas I want to see more of in it.

    Much love,

  2. I write them as acts of will

    I find that fascinating. Writing as an act of will.

    Also an act of faith.

  3. This is really interesting 🙂

    I particularly like the image of following an idea back to its natural habitat and looking at it there before deciding what kind of treatment it demands.

  4. I write because I’d go CRAZY if I didn’t. I’ve even adopted your method of writing “snippets” in a STRICTLY FICTION journal I keep at all times in my big overflowing Mommy Purse. Every time the baby falls asleep in the car, I park at the playground, let the 5 yr old out, and stay in the car scribbling. As for being articulate in any form, that’s on hold indefinitely. I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks when I’m missing chunks of speech 🙂

  5. Ah, the Write-to-Get-a-Thought-and-a-Half-to-Yourself-Now-and-Then model.

    I’m glad to hear you’ve decided to take a shot at the book of snippets, though. Sure, it might feel absolutely insane at the time, but when you look back and see that you’ve accumulated pages and pages, when you felt like you were barely getting anything down, it’s so worth it. All those lone sentences can really start to add up 🙂

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