I have been in a bit of a fallow period word-wise lately. I tell myself it is because work is so busy and my head is full of the ten thousand things that need to be done. Life is hectic, but I can’t lay my unplanned hiatus at the feet of my day job.
Energy can also be a problem. Some days after being a librarian and a dad and a husband, my battery wanes and I crash at the end of the day. My family and my work are important to me. The energy is properly placed but energy is a finite resource and easily depleted. Also true, but not the core issue.
I had the chance to spend some time with my friend Daryl yesterday. He and I talked about our writing. He is having some good success with two self-published novels and a recently published short story. His work is getting finished and into the world.
My work is not getting finished. We talked about why. He asked why I write. Is it the story, the characters or the ideas that draw you?
“It’s the language”, I said immediately, without giving any thought. “It is the words.”
One day later, I realize that isn’t the truth. It isn’t the words exactly, or, at least, it isn’t only the words.
I write for the surprise of the words. I write to understand what I know and believe. I am a person who thinks out loud. I don’t always understand my own thoughts unless I can hear them out loud. Writing is that way. Writing carries thoughts, ideas and impressions out of my head and onto a screen so I can see clearly and compare how the idea fits.
I also write for the surprise of story. There are people living their own lives, having their own situations, that rise up from me when I sit at the keys. These people rise and walk quite independent from me, yet they are from me and they are me. It is strange and exhilarating to discover fully formed lives, situations and ideas that do not appear to be me but somehow become more me than my own breath.
And as I meet these people, I am meeting myself. Which brings me to the main answer to the question. Why do I write? I write to meet myself. This kind of writing gets messy. This kind of writing becomes contradictory. I write to embrace the extraordinarily generous gift Walt Whitman gave to us in saying, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then. I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
This, then, is the best way I can answer my own question. Why do I write? I write to make visible the contradiction inside myself. I write to celebrate that contradiction. I write because I am large. I write because I contain multitudes.