My teacher encouraged me to take the challenge and start referring to myself as a writer. I have to admit, that felt weird. She just wanted me to say out loud, say it to other people. She wanted to know if I could say it and mean it. Then she asked me to write about it and why write at all. So, here you go world. I guess I’m a writer…and stuff…and this is why I write. I suppose next I need to write about what I want to write and how, but until I get that assignment I think I’m just going to write…and stuff.
The leap is supposed to be liberating. Like an underwear jump at midnight into lake Washington. Shivering. Stupid. Everything you don’t want it to be. But more. Magic. But letting the words traverse the tongue and hang for a moment at the edge and then fall, fall away, audible for you and anyone else to hear, far enough so you can’t gobble them back up again, the words, I’m a writer, they lock you in more than let you free. Now every sentence is scrutinized, every misplaced point of punctuation penalized, and then there is the criticism of some needed scab picking which, while writing may have been something more like blood letting, an atonement in ink in a world where grace is rare and the writers workshop proves once again that mercy is even more so. But I’m a writer now. There is no corner at the round table of critique where you can hide or be a victim. The victim is meek. The writer is a humble paradox. A broken person who not only believes they have something to say, but that they can say it well.
I am a writer.
So, why write?
The answer varies day-by-day, piece-by-piece, word-by-word. Sometimes I write for the words, for the kinetic force of the tongue and throat forming what the mind is mixing. The music of language is complicated, even for Nietzsche. Objects and abstracts, senses and solipsism, doxa, tonbild, reproduction of sense data, heat and flame, flame and sun. The chaos of the dancing star.
I write to speak. Mrs. Flowers says something like this to Maya Angelou: “You read a lot. That’s good but it’s not good enough.” Words are not meant to just be read, but to be heard. It is the voice that gives words shades of deeper meaning. I write to make a voice. A voice not my own, or entirely my own because I possess it. I write therefore I am, and often what I will never be.
I write because math doesn’t make meaning. Physics is a set of equations, even if they’re quantum, they’re limited. If science is the natural world, then words are the invisible world. If math is the earth, than language is the heavens. Numbers will tell you how, or maybe when, but never why. Children do not beg for origins, for form and function, they ask for reasons, not explanation. The nagging game of “why” tells the Adult this haunting truth. The child asks “why” repeatedly to excess. The adult offers no solution, just flailing and exasperated arms. When the child asks innocently one more time, “why” the only answer offered is, “Because.” This is either the truth exhausted, that the meaning is just “because”—because something—or because the adult honestly cannot say, and not knowing, to the adult, is more exhausting than meaning or meaninglessness.
I write because life is tragedy. Because it is haunted with ghosts that wont leave me. Because they’re ghosts that stalk the whole world. I write because language is true. As universal as math. Maybe not the sounds, maybe not the structure, but speaking. Silence is not an option in our world, as oppressed as it is. It is quiet enough with the sounds of lies, with the sounds suffering. Someone must speak above it all. And that voice must be human.
I write to put myself on trial. To put myself to the test. To judge the one who judges.
I write because my fingers are as restless as my feet, as my mind. When midnight creeps up on me and the world is quiet and I am still alive with thoughts, thoughts of other worlds, thoughts meant to blot out the dark, thoughts of grass greens, globs of light, hummingbirds, shimmering patterns of lantern fires on the wall. When I’m overcome with grace, where can my fingers tremble, holy afraid, but on a page? Where else can my past bleed out and speak, except upon the paper?
I write because stories are true. Because narrative arch is a rainbow, bending multicolored beneath the clouds, no beginning to be seen, no end ever visible. Because I am Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Peter Pan. I am the Prodigal Son and Esther, trapped beneath a Bell Jar, and Ivan as well as Alyosha and I would return my ticket too. I am not yet Ruth, but I long to be. I am poor Pinocchio, whose father was a carpenter, named Joseph, who had no mom, but was created. I’m that son.
I write because I will never be rich. I will have nothing to leave behind. No name, no legacy. Maybe a few sentences inked in the margins of my favorite books. Words of love, encouragement, joy, surprise. Not for the world, but for my world—Maybe a wife or hopefully children.
I write because I know nothing else. No other way to speak. But more importantly, no other way to listen.
I write to practice. Because maybe one day I will love somebody and they will want to know all the things I carry in my pockets. Or tucked under my mattress in High school. All the things I crammed inside my sock drawers, the greasy pizza boxes, the moldy milkshakes, the half eaten burgers, boxes, boxes, boxes of cereal. All the unused condoms I threw away. Because there are so many things I don’t want to say, but I’m going too. And so maybe, maybe someday, I will say them and the problem will no longer be the fight to form words because I will have won those already, instead I will have only one fight, holding back the stale tears I’ve always choked on.
I guess I write to survive. At 3:23 a.m. when again I’ve turned down the opportunity to have sex with the dark-eyed girl next door and I’m hunched over my keyboard instead, I can imagine the unused condoms I threw away the day before. I can stare at the blue light of the LCD bending into the glass bottle of Strongbow Original glancing out onto the wall a lucid shaky pattern that moves with the motion of my finger shadows scuttling on the keys. I can imagine. I write, I guess, because I can imagine another place, another ending, another dark-eyed girl. A room free of sex smells. Just two bodies pressed together and fingers huddled in a soft handclasp, myself awake and listening to the rhythm of dream breathing. Or the rhythm of endings with answers that have meaning. Other worlds where things go right. I can imagine, and so I write.
Tell me what you thought!