Why do you write? That’s a question that has popped up in my life from time to time. What makes one person want to write everything down and another hate to write a two line thank you letter? I suppose it’s because we’re all wired differently. Some for writing. Some for dancing. Some for singing. Some for a thousand other talents. My son-in-law is flying to Texas this weekend to take part in an Iron Man race where the participants swim and bike and run. Now that’s a real “why” question. But he likes challenging himself, seeing what he can do. He knows he’s not going to win. The thrill for him is in finishing the race and doing the best that he can do.
But writing? How do you do it? Why do you do it? Are you still doing it? That’s the most frequent question I hear in the grocery store or wherever when I’m out about town. Are you still writing? As if I could quit. Even on the days when the words come hard or not at all, I’m still drawn to the blank page. I still want to fill it with words. I still want to tell a story.
So I came across a quote from Irwin Shaw that I shared with a writing class for Community Ed several years ago.
“Why do kids play football? They can get hurt on any play, can’t they? Yet they can’t wait until Saturday comes around so they can play on the high-school team, or the college team, and get smashed around. Writing is like that. You can get hurt, but you enjoy it.” — Irwin Shaw
And here’s another quoted passage from a lecture delivered to journalism graduates at Columbia by Roger Rosenblatt.
Because we have to. Because the thing is in us. It’s like a biological fact. We are the stories ourselves, telling one another to one another about one another.
There are good, sound reasons for writing. We learn what we think when we write. It’s an odd process, a mysterious process. The sheer play of language, the sheer sound of language.
We also write to undertake a journey, to create an adventure from the past into the future. We move around the bend in the river. Anticipation is all. The vehicle of that journey is the sentence. The single sentence.” –Roger Rosenblatt
And so Mr. Rosenblatt has put my answer to the question “why write” into words. Because I have to. Because the thing is in me. A biological fact. It’s just what I do. And you know what? I’m glad. I want to fill up that empty page or computer screen with a story that I hope a reader somewhere is going to enjoy so much that they can’t put the book down until they read every word.
Hope all your stories are good ones and that you write and read many great sentences.