Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 29, 2011

The compulsion to write

This evening I read Anne-Mhairi Simpson’s wonderful guest post on Carrie Mumford’s blog here . It gave me a lot to ponder about dreams and success and writing. If I am honest, I would like to have more time to write about things I want to write about; I would like to have enough money to travel to visit friends and places; I would like to be known and respected as a writer. This last is far above the others as a dream. I think of the books I’ve read that reached inside me, saw me, changed me, stretched my thinking. My dream is to write books that would do the same for other people. I don’t think that adds up being a famous writer, or even one that can afford to travel or quit the day job. It really is a far more prideful goal.

No matter the cost in sleep, brain function or attention span, I am happier when I write; when I don’t take the time, I stop thinking. That realization just slammed into me. When I was asked in elementary school to spell a word, I mentally wrote it on the ceiling. When asked to do arithmetic problems, I did the same. Teenage angst? Poured out in page after page. I look at my life and the pattern is rather astounding. I write to figure things out, to put my dreams into words, to connect with some part of myself that hides from the daylight and conscious thought.

This revelation applies to more than my personal memoir, morning pages sort of writing. I write about characters who are strong enough to change and grow and win against all the odds, hoping that I can borrow their strength and commitment.

I’d be very interested in anything you’d care to share about why you write.

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Responses

  1. This is a wonderful reflection, Nancy. I’ve realized recently that my reasons for writing have shifted over time. When I was younger, still in elementary school, I wrote for fun — short stories for class activities, silly projects with friends. As I hit adolescence, I wrote for survival. I poured out my anger and fear into poetry and songs, and I created fantasy worlds for myself where I could live and find happiness and contentment. In college my world’s shifted somewhat, but still acted as an escape from the demands and pressures of my day-to-day life. My worlds were a way for me to imagine what it might be like to have a boyfriend, to have a family and children, to have a career that I loved and enjoyed.

    Now, though, things are a little different, maybe because I have realized many of the goals that I once dreamed about. I had my first long-term relationship, and although it ended, I was able to satisfy that desire. I’m in graduate school and I know what academia is like, so I don’t have to fantasize about that either. And yet there are still stories in my soul, characters with voices, and worlds that must be built. I write because I must, because when I don’t, I am less human.

    • You’ve made an interesting point, Jamila. When young, I created my perfect worlds, places where I fit in. Now I find myself writing about misfits who make the best of an imperfect world and work through their flaws. I understand about the stories that want to be written; it does make us human. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  2. Thanks for such a thought provoking post, Nancy (and for the mention of my blog)!

    I think it’s really important to ask ourselves why we write every once in a while. I sometimes get caught up in everything that surrounds writing (the end result, the technique) and forget that the main reason I write is because I love it. I write because it’s really, really fun 🙂

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Carrie. I agree, sometimes we forget why we write, especially when we are frustrated or stuck, which is the most important time to remember why. Writing is fun for me as well; I love the process of finding and polishing the words, sometimes too much, which is why I named this blog Lapidary Prose. 🙂


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