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?