Why Write?

Why am I doing this? It’s a question I try to ask myself. Not just with writing, but with everything. At any given moment: why am I doing this? More to the point: Why did I make this blog, what do I hope to accomplish, why do I feel compelled to write? These are important questions; I will try to answer them here. Before I can go any further, I think I will need to get this down.

~ My relationship with writing feels new. That is because it is; perhaps a better word is renewed. For many years of my youth, I actually hated reading. I got over that and fell in love with books. And then I didn’t really try writing seriously, with any semblance of the necessary passion, until high school. And even then, it could feel like a rush to the end of the pain of having to go through with it. Perhaps all of this — going out of my way to write, writing for fun now — feels new because until recently, I have never tried to write beyond spells of sudden inspiration, and when it was merely required of me. Somewhere along the way, something inside me changed. I honestly couldn’t tell you when this moment struck, or if it was a moment at all, probably something more like a passive culmination. (I don’t know what this means but it feels like I am complicit in annihilating the vision of the writer’s romantic journey of classic fateful enlightenment.) It is the truth though. Somewhere, somehow, I felt a great need to write, to extend myself onto pages with the arsenal of language. It was an avenue to experience myself and to understand something about myself, a more concrete introspective machination. Or it simply allowed me to remember something I wanted to remember. Or only to prove to myself I could maybe do it. Often, it was the only thing available to make me feel good for a time, as a relief, as a catharsis, as a delivery from shadow. I think a seminal value in writing is that it can serve no end other than itself. There is likely some Kantian moral truth to explore here — to treat your stories like you do human beings, as an end in of themselves, and not as a means — but I don’t have time to go into that within the bounds of this specific writing.

~ Life can be a struggle. Often it is a struggle to matter, in some way, to some person(s). I have never had self-confidence. It’s absence tends to dictate my behavior around others. As a result, I don’t effectively give myself to every situation I might find myself in, or every person I meet. I hesitate, I hold things back, I forget to speak the things that matter. Other times I am loud. So loud as to try to drown my fears out with ceaseless activity and fires from misguided passion. Neither of these are real; they are masks to the true visage. The truth is, I don’t know the “true visage” for myself; I haven’t seen it, even if I try to. Perhaps this is why I write? Maybe doing this is an application of a methodology to my own brand of self-discovery. Others might engage this development in other people. But me, in my solitude, have resorted to alternative means.

~ Writing, I have learned, gives me some kind of confidence. It’s not the same, somehow it’s lesser. But there’s control in it. When I am writing, I have complete freedom to choose how I want to go about it. There is a balance in this though. Sometimes freedom can be damning. It is fatiguing, often immobilizing. Certainly coming up with something to write about, out of everything you could be writing about or could be doing instead, sitting your ass down and writing it, and then coming back after all that to decide if it’s good enough — is definitely a rigorous hobby to engage in. It might just become an introspective hellscape. There is no way around this though, if you wish to write. And I think the process is valuable. It is worthy of my time because it matters. Simply, writing can give me this desired confidence because it allows me to express myself well. And self-expression matters very deeply to me. Reality rarely offers me the same opportunity, so I take advantage of it on the page. I set myself into the cage of creative pursuit, trading blows with my ego and my demons, until I manage to rise to the surface with something new in hand, something to take with me (and maybe show others). With this special form of suffering — that of the writing process — there is a powerful compromise. For the price of some existential pain, I can manifest myself in this world like never before. To me, this is its own reward.

~ Part of the reason this feels new (writing for a public sphere) is probably because of the format. All my writing up to now was exclusively for myself. I never showed anyone anything. I would tell you it is because I “never felt the need.” But that would be a lie; I have felt that need and my silent pages stayed silent mostly due to fear, and also the confidence thing I mentioned earlier. It’s true, I did the writing intermittently, for myself and often about myself, but that doesn’t mean the sentiments weren’t incommunicable. I just never had the courage, or the means, or the wherewithal to share it. I did most of this writing in college, but I have written almost just as much since I escaped it. In the past year alone, have I felt the presence of some daemon, who haunts me in fits of dreamless sleep, imbuing my mindspace with arrays of Twilight Zone plots, tales of existential disquiet, and bad action sequences? No, the answer is simpler and less keen. I resolved to spend more time trying to come up with ideas about stuff to write about. I merely shifted my allocation of mental resources to factor in more brainstorming sessions for fictions I wanted to paint and other things I might find useful to say on my blog I was planning on creating. In fact, this journey started exactly one year ago on new year’s day.

~ There was a significant misconception I had when it comes to writing. “Just write.” You know, just start writing and it will come to you. I won’t say here that free writing or journaling aren’t worthy things to do, in fact, I realize it might be a very powerful exercise for some. What I want to convey is that it was not useful for me. I don’t find thoughtless free writing to be something I want to do, although I am open to the fact this might change the more I get used to writing. Instead, I find good writing, or I should clarify: the kind of writing that I want to engage in, comes first from a good idea. I have quickly realized that the act of writing comes naturally to me only once I have captured some sprite of inspiration. When there is a core ideal I wish to explore or convey, the words do come. Sometimes all it takes is a single word or concept spoken which I don’t hear that often, or an artful scene — and my imagination runs wild, with my pen struggling to keep pace but while bearing a smile. The point is: I can begin to build something with the passion required to do it well, but only if I know what the endgame might be. This is one of many things I have learned over the past year.

~ Before I began writing this I did some reading, about writers and their own inspiration. George Orwell, in his own essay on why he writes, presents four motives for writing:

1) sheer egoism
2) aesthetic enthusiasm
3) historical impulse
4) political purpose

According to Orwell, who is easily one of my favorite authors and I think, one of the best, “They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.

I am not yet sure of my own proclivities concerning these four horses. Over the course of this journey, I hope to ride them all.

Why? Because I can. ~

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 1