July 30, 2013

The Art of Writing

I couldn't get the post that was meant for today ready in time -- hopefully it'll be ready by Thursday. In the interim, I wanted to make a short post that asks myself a question that I've been ruminating over for a while.

Why do I write? I write essays and stories, I write blog posts and emails and letters and notes from the interviews I conduct. I compose tweets and text messages and I journal fervently in a notebook on my nightstand. I've put my feelings into words since I was about eleven, when I realized that I could very viscerally describe the sensation of being on the mountaintops of the Swiss Alps. I've journaled seriously since I was 14, and it has been good writing since I was 16, almost 8 years now.

I write because it's release, because it's the only way I know to take a step back from all the confusing emotions and put myself in order. I write because it gives me distance and clarity that simply talking out my problems doesn't offer. Not to say that conversation doesn't help; a lot of times, blog posts are inspired by conversations I've had with friends and colleagues. I write because I want to capture the bright essence of people on paper, to put into something more permanent than my shoddy memory the lilt of their voice as they teased me or the bright flash of white teeth as he smiled crookedly, a genuine smile, at me, a smile he shared with me alone. I write because ruthlessly examining tough situations by working through others' motivations for their actions is soothing and helpful to me. Writing lets me pour out my heart onto a page, where the text won't judge me by its mere existence. I write because understanding other people starts with understanding myself.

I write because stories matter. And, to paraphrase what Neil Gaiman has said, stories that matter end. I write because when the chapter closes, when this phase of the interconnected short stories that make up a life is over, I want to see the connections from place to place. I want to trace my character's growth and development, watch her make important decisions and follow through with them, or fail and learn from her fall.

I love stories, I love that stories are ultimately about change, and how scary and uncontrollable it is, and powerless we feel in the face of change. I write because watching a relationship fall apart -- friendship, romantic, what-if, what-could-have-been -- or grow into something new -- a marriage, a connection, a new friend, a new partnership -- is amazing and beautiful even when it's painful and sad.

I write because the things I love in communities are reflected in the largest and smallest of moments of the human condition, and I write because I want to remind myself of the beauty and the pain, of the risk and the reward.

....And, if I'm being wholly honest: I write because I'm good at it, one of the few things I never doubted I could do. I can carry a tune beautifully, and I can write prose that breaks your heart in 1000 words or less -- a lot less, if I let my ego speak for me. I've broken hearts in a single sentence.

I write because feelings are universal, and realizing that we aren't alone in our depth of feeling or experience is extraordinarily powerful.

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