Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Finishline Looms

This is the point in the semester where I disappear, where I burrow into my books and count the hours until December 10 at 6pm and I am freed from this semester. "Finals" are not so terrible for an English major; I actually only have 1 final exam. What that means, however, is that the other classes make up for it in final papers and projects. So, to hold my place and to remind myself why in the world I do what I do, I have this.

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to dual enroll at Kalamazoo College. I took a Creative Non-Fiction class, consequently falling in love with the genre and cementing my goals and dreams for later life. Anyway, my professor always assigned a warm-up exercise like this one, which is modeled after an essay by Maya Angelou, I think. I've come back to the form on many occasions, and this is what it looks like now, two years later.

Why I Write
• I write because it’s a narcissist’s dream: channel your thoughts onto paper and nobody can interrupt, nobody can stop you – there is nothing to inhibit your monologue.

• I write because it hurts not to write. The metaphors and similes and descriptions crash around in my brain, pile-ups that are scores of words long, and undoing the mess after it happens is far less enjoyable than simply directing traffic as it comes.

• I write because I cannot paint. If I could paint, perhaps writing would be less urgent. If I could make pictures or art with something other than words, perhaps my life would be very different. But I cannot, and so a pen becomes my paintbrush and simple, lined paper morphs into a canvas.

• I write because it organizes thoughts, puts away words, makes everything a little bit more tidy. Paper is a safe place to hide thoughts – they cannot fly away into the abyss of the brain if they are neatly nailed down in black and white.

• I write to celebrate form. Style, though under scrutiny of critics, is my friend. I like to play with Her, change Her clothes like I used to redress my Barbies. Writing is my grownup version of a doll.

• I write because I have no choice…how else am I to respond to what is going on in my life? Do I run the stress away? Would it be better to bottle everything up and unload unto a therapist in future years? Been there, done that…I may as well document the experience.

• I write because I love stories. I love telling them, hearing them, watching them, reading them, knowing them, understanding them, creating them, being a part of them. Everyone has a story and I want to hear it, and then I want to write it, make it real to the world at large.

• I write because I am a closet actress. Writers make good actresses, I’ve decided. Both need to know characters, both need to know how a character works, how to get inside the head of a fictionalized person; they both need to have a mastery of the art of reaction. I wanted to be an actress when I was younger…the stage, the smell of a theater, the scripts – it was all heaven. Writing is to acting what online shopping is to the mall; it’s acting at home, with your fingers and your words instead of your body and your face. To choose between them is like trying to choose between two best friends, one of which lives next door and you get to see every day and you grow closer and closer and closer until it feels like you are the same person, and the other lives far away in some exotic place, but the very thought of seeing her makes the distance worth the pain, because you know that the moment you’re together again, you’ll pick up right where you left off. I need them both.

  • I write because I am a Writer, and that is what Writers do. I have next to no choice in the matter. It is what it is, and I love it. I write because I love it.

3 comments:

Crazy 'bout Him said...

Words seem to flow from you like a river. There is no stopping them, dam them up and will they will eventually come crashing through. Sometimes your words are sweet and funny, laughing merrily along like rapids. Other times they seem a waterfall of intensity and power. Occasionally they are deep, slow and wide, full of pure emotion. But ALWAYS they are moving and ALWAYS they refresh.

Charis & Judah's Mom said...

Word. I especially agree with all of those items about narcissism and acting and storytelling. Writing lets me be the best thought-out version of me, the snappy, witty, well-spoken me I wish hung around all the time. I don't always have the creativity I wish I had, and I don't always have time to write the ideas that I do have, but in its own small way, getting a story or two out of my head is a cathartic, self-gratifying act that absolutely cures what ails me.

Benji said...

Wow. I wasn't sure why I liked writing until I read this. Although my style is a little more elementary, it still fits. I've been meaning to check out your blog for a while, I'm glad I did. Good stuff, keep it up! The next time you see Jess, flick her in the ear, really hard. Tell her it's from me. Take it easy!