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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why do you write?

Why do I write?

Because my fingers won't let me stop.

Because I love letting glitter and fairy dust shake all over the page so I can share it with other people. Peter Pan enjoys flying all by himself, but he cries to other children to join him because the stars just need some company—they're prettier shared! Writing is communication, and some pretty things just need to be written. Or, perhaps, because misery loves company.

Because in my darkest moments, as much as real life friends and family help me, what's really inside me is what keeps me going. When you're tested, your friend's faith is not what will carry you through—it's what you carry inside, the stuff you're made of, that separates the gold you are from the dross that fire burns away. And the stuff you're made of is built from stories you tell yourself, the themes you internalize, and the pictures that leap into your mind and use the darkness around you as a canvas. I once heard a talk where the author of Because of Winn-Dixie said that our job as writers is to show the suffering and difficulties of life, and then bring our readers past that to hope. We give people something to put inside themselves that they can hold with them forever.

I'm not just talking about good social values, here—about multicultural characters, combatting sexist social norms, healthy and wholesome relationship examples, or any of all the other didactic social engineering and activism that's an absolutely essential part of art. I'm talking about pointing beyond politics and talking points into the abstracts that make us human, into the things like love and hope and faith and strength and courage that really don't mean anything until we tell a story about them. I would not know what courage was if no one ever told me about David and Goliath, or persistence without Batman, or loyalty without Mera, Daughter of the Nile, and I wouldn't know investigative guts without Brokovich and the corporations, or the obsessive fear of aging and time without Captain Hook's crocodile. I don't think I would know self-sacrifice without the ending of Tale of Two Cities. And I would never know a desperate, “I love you anyway” sacrificial love for people who just don't deserve it—not without the story of Jesus.

I wouldn't know humanness without stories—fact and fiction—that tell us the truth. I want to write stories like that, for myself and for my reader, so that when either of us finds herself clinging to the precipice, or chained to a rock under the rising tide, or fallen at the bottom of the cliff wondering what else could go wrong, she finds a memory, a strain of strength inside of her, to keep going. She finds the courage to forgive, the power to stand up against injustice, or just the hope to smile a little brighter tomorrow. It's for that, for that little smile that means so much more than I can explain—I don't want to say power to change the world, for that's terribly cliché, but give me that strain of hope, or tell me a story of someone--

That's what journalism is, it's what scientific writing is, it's what history is, it's what fiction is—at its very best, every bit of writing tells a story that leaves something with us.


 Tell me a story, and I'll tell you one, too.

Why do you write? Or draw? Or program? Or do what you do? Let's hear it!

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