Writing as Evidence

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.
Compulsive logorrhea.
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)


2 responses to “Writing as Evidence

  1. Today I woke in a panic at 3:15am, worried about my continued employment, family members struggling with health issues, financial challenges and a sense of gloom about “my writing”.

    I usually get up at 4am, so I did. The minute I was settled on the sofa, laptop propped between my knees, coffee by my side, I felt calm. As my fingers touched the keys, I couldn’t imagine life without writing.

    Thanks for your post, it’s very thought-provoking, as you can tell!

    • Writing does clear the mind, whether it’s by purging all that anxiety onto paper or by getting lost in the story at hand. I still write my morning pages every day. Occasionally, time keeps me from them until the afternoon, but I hate missing one day of writing them. Thanks for your comment. Hope you settle into a better sleep tonight.

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