Every few days, the little voice inside my head confronts me with the same question: why write? What follows is a brief battle between several pros and one very strong con – you’re wasting your time.
Julia Cameron devoted an entire book to debunking that creative crusher. Plenty of well-known writers have published their own essays on “why I write.” Margaret Atwood lays out her reasons in her book, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. * After a page and a half, she refers to monetary reasons only once. And, so much of what she says speaks to my own writer self. She writes:
To set down the past before it is forgotten.
To excavate the past because it has been forgotten.
To produce order out of chaos.
To say a new word.
To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be ‘a writer’ unless I actually did some writing.
To cope with my depression.
To bear witness….
To bear witness.
Sometimes, I write to unravel my past. I write essays about experiences that hold me hostage, still. Words fall onto paper, and I see the event with more clarity. Even when I write fiction, I scatter pieces of me throughout. The characters differ, the details vary, but the rise and fall of emotion mirrors my own. I revisit the pain, dissect the details, and find resolution. Once in a while, I even let go.
I may never get paid for one story. That novel might never make it to the galleys. But, I still have to write. If I succumb to my critic who says I’m wasting my time, I will forget the experiences I want to remember. Or, I will fester in the haunts I wish to forget.
* Margaret Atwood. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. Copyright 2003 by Anchor Books (isbn 1-4000-3260-1)