Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Write?

One of my blogging buddies, East Side Professor, just gave her Creative Writing class a blogging assignment: "Why Write?" It's a nice introductory assignment, and it seems like they're having fun with it. Their responses sent me down memory lane...

In the beginning I felt honored and excited, but what I remember most clearly--poignantly--is the hopeless feeling that sunk in soon when, as a freshman English major, I was placed first-thing into an upper division Expository Writing class where I rubbed shoulders with fantastic writers in their junior/senior years of college. Though I had a great yearning to write, I quickly realized I knew nothing of value to say and couldn't even say "nothing" creatively. Though some freshman are surely more prepared, more mature, had limited perspective and ability to see or pull value from my up-to-then experiences. I didn't even know what there was to know, let alone what my analysis of it would be.  Why write?  Because the teacher said so...

Later--several years, lifetimes, majors, and colleges later--I picked up the mantle of "writer" again, purely for outlet as opposed to career goal, now from a more colorful palette of experiences mixed with tears and deep reflection. I wrote not for assignments or to tell others anything, but to get deep emotions out so I could look at them and heal. My Creative Writing prof found these unsolicited offerings "fresh" and "inspired," and encouraged me to submit them to magazines, but...I didn't write them to tell others...

During that time I did discover a couple important truths with regard to my writing, though. I love to write poetry, but sometimes it feels limiting.  To write well, I need more freedom:

I wish to write 
without pressure of rhyme or meter or cadence...

And while there are important things to be said about peace and chaos and power, shifting boundaries to record, and lessons to learn from historical and current world events, I am most drawn to capture, record, and dwell on simple snapshots:

I wish to write
the taste of melting butter and honey
on steaming homemade fruit dumplings,

the sound of a deep earthy melody
perfectly tuned to universal lyrics,

the glory of a crisp, clean panoramic alpine vision
unmarred even by man's footprint

the feel of your skin brushing mine,
the warmth of humanity beside me

the chara of our newborn son breathing softly in sleep
and our little girl giggling when we tickle her drooly chin...

Okay--I admit I added that last stanza just now. Before I experienced it, I could not have fathomed the immense comfort I would take from hearing our son breathing as he slept in his crib a few feet from our bed, or the joy of our daughter's happy baby coos and giggles. But that's the beauty of writing, eh?  We can review, add, delete, cut, paste, and "give scope to the truth!" (Did Chaucer really say that, or did the scriptwriters just give scope to the truth in A Knight's Tale?) But these things are true, lovely, just, and of good report--valuable! (Phil 4:8,9)

Since college I've had ideas for a novel or two. My 50-page pilot excerpts are tucked away in my files, started but unfinished because I have no gift for strategy (I borrow that line from The Princess Bride often) and still don't know what it's really my job to say. What message does the world need to hear that hasn't already been said repeatedly and eloquently? There's nothing new under the sun. Wisdom has come. It's available. Does the world really need me to reiterate it?!

It's been said, I think in Rory Noland's The Heart of the Artist, or perhaps by a wonderful mentoring friend somewhere along the way, that some of us are more artistic, and some of us are less, and that it takes a bit of artistry to see the wonder and glory of God. Therefore, it is the job of those of us who can see it to show/communicate what we see to those who can't, that they, too, might see the wonder and glory of God.

And I believe God wants to be known.

And I am His servant.

So for me, after all these years, that's "Why write?" Write that we might realize, remind ourselves, and reveal the wonder and glory of God in our lives.


Jen said...

So much of what you have said here, Lattice, is how I have felt through the years. When I was young, I didn't think I had any experiences from which to draw in order to paint or write. I quit painting after college, having had our wonderful son. Ten years later, I was confiding in a new friend, whose wisdom and experience I respected. I lamented that I had lost so much not painting for so long. She replied, "No you haven't!...It is all inside of you." I immediately began painting again, and have slowly continued, through two more children and work, counting on the fact that 'it' is all inside, and furthermore, that it is being added to with each new day. In regard to your "reasons" for writing, with which I completely agree, have you heard this quotation from Jean Rhys? I love it... "Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."

Jennifer said...

Because to love something for no reason is the best kind of love. Thanks for participating in the writing exercise (and not whining about it.) Writing like life, is a journey not a destination.