Sunday, November 11, 2012

If you must be Quixotic...

I like to hand myself a hard question now and then and stretch the all too lax abstract/logic muscles of my mind into trying to give a suitable answer. As I sat down this evening and thought about what to write, the question came to me:

Why do I like to write?

In forming my answers for this question, I laid certain parameters upon myself: 1) I could not use "I just love it" to explain. 2) I could not mention Epic by John Eldridge. There. Pact made, and no backsies. 

So why do I like to write?

In a pale, mortal way my answer is a mirroring of 1 John 4:19 which speaks of why we love God: "We love because He first loved us." The question "Why do you like to write" is one of a capricious nature that has no beginning and no end. It simply is. {which, incidentally, is not breaking my pact. No fear on that account. I will explain myself.} I love to write because I love to read, and as I've grown older I believe I love to read because I love to write. The things are inverse and adverse and companions and fools. A love of reading came before an acknowledged love of writing, but I would not say you were incorrect in wondering if the love of writing was always there waiting for an outlet it could not find until I first took up a pen with the intention of forming my own words on paper.
Asking a writer why they like to write {in the theoretical sense of the question} is like asking a person why they breathe. For me, writing is a natural reflex to the beauty, the events, and the people I see around me. As Anais Nin put it, "We write to taste life twice." I live and then I write. The one transfers to the other, for me, in a gentle, necessary way. As prosaic as it sounds, I believe I process by writing. Part of the way I deal with stressful situations, catty people, or great joy or great trials in my own life is by conjuring it onto paper in some way; a journal entry, a blog post, my writing notebook, or my latest story. While I am a fair conversationalist, my real forte is expressing myself in words on paper. If I leave it all chasing round my head like rabbits in a warren, I'm apt to become a bug-bear to live with and my family would not thank me. Some people need counselors. Some people need long, drawn-out phone-calls with a trusted friend. Some people need to go out for a run. I need to get away to a quiet, lonesome corner--preferably on the front steps at gloaming with the North Star trembling against the darkening blue. I need to set my pen fiercely against the page {for at such moments I must be writing--not typing.} and I need to convert the stress or excitement or happiness into something to be shared with another person.
The beauty of the relationship between reading and writing is its give-and-take dynamic. For years I gathered and read every book in the near vicinity and absorbed tale upon tale, story upon story, adventures and sagas and dramas and classics. I fed my fancy, my tastes, and my ideas upon good books and thus those aspects of myself grew up to be none too shabby. When I began to employ my fancy, tastes, and ideas in writing my own books, the dawning of a strange and wonderful idea tinged the horizon of thought with blush-rose colors: If I persisted and worked hard and poured myself into the craft, I could create one of those books. One of the heart-books that foster a love of reading and even writing in another person somewhere. I could have a hand in forming another person's mind. A great responsibility and a great privilege that, and one I would love to be a party to. Books can change a person. I am a firm believer in that. I cannot tell you how many sentiments or noble ideas or parts of my own personality are woven from threads of things I've read over the years. I hoard quotations and shadows of quotations and general impressions of books like a tzar of Russia hoards his icy treasures. They make up a large part of who I am. I think it's worth saying again: books can change a person. For better or for worse. As a writer it's my two-edged gift to be able to slay or heal where I will. It's my responsibility to wield that weapon aright and do only good with my words. Or only purposeful cutting. I am not set against the surgeon's method of butchery--the nicking of a person's spirit, the rubbing in of a salty, stinging salve, and the ultimate healing-over of that wound that makes for a healthier person in the end. It's the bitter herbs that heal the best, so now and again you might be called upon to write something with more cayenne than honey about it. But the end must be good. We cannot let the Light fade from our words.
My last answer for this self-imposed question is a bit shallower, a bit meaner, a bit more like the saucy miss I'm apt to become now and again when the mood is upon me: I like to write because I savor the power. I like to draw a person in and attach them to fictional people. I like to transport them places they've never been, introduce them to observations they'd never have seen were it not for me. Presumptuousness, I know. I like to implant a bit of Rachel in them that may stick there like a cockle-bur the rest of their lives, never to drop away. I like to entrance a reader in my intricate, gossamer web of story and spin them out to the other side, breathless and dew-damp; a little bewildered, a deal pleased. So these, dear friends, are my answers to that wonderfully quixotic question of why I like to write. I'd like to see sister-posts of your own reasons if you so had the time or the inclination. But for now I'll leave you and trot off the practicality of fetching my dinner.

"...He had begun writing again—fierce, warring words she could tell, by the bold black strokes."
-The Scarlet-Gypsy Song


Anonymous said...

BEAUTIFUL!! I love this; you got it so right!!! *hugs and loves it and prints it out*

Rachel Heffington said...

My my! Printing it out? I feel flattered now. Well--it's finally time I wrote something worth printing out no this blog. I've been in a slump.

Rachel Hope said...

I loved this post. Its strange that I had an incling to do a post like this, but didn't have the time. And when I saw you post I felt a bit sheepish to go ahead and write my own. But then ! you gave me the permission, and now I'm happy, with no fear of being facsimile. Any way, I loved this post as I already said. Writing on a front porch to the moon sounds glorious. I have a page on my blog about my intermixed love for reading and writing, and never the two shall be separated. I love the way you described it.
Blessings ~ Rachel Hope