Firstly, I hope everyone out there is safe and warm and recovering from the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy. My power was out for five days, the roads around me were closed thanks to fallen trees and my town was deserted. Still, when friends and family asked me how I was doing I could honestly say I was doing well. I was prepared with enough food and water, flashlight and candles and I was in touch with friends. Yet, I didn’t write a single word during the storm. I doodle-ed, took walks, and in general wool-gathered.
Why do we write, I wondered. I always thought it’s because I have something to say. For someone who doesn’t talk much in person, the pen and paper are convenient tools. But why do I have something to say? Is it because I see things others don’t see? (How aggrandizing is that!?) Or do I ponder over things longer than others? Why do I, when I look at a person, try to give her a story so that I can justify her soulful brown eyes or her hurried gait? This curiosity and pondering slow me down, my writing output declines and I tend to revise these stories (instead of my WIP) in my head while waiting at traffic lights, grocery lines, and, of course, while waiting for my power to return.
So while we write because we want to say something we also write to connect with others, to connect, yes, to humanity, as a whole, but isn’t it a relief to know that at least one other person sees things the way we do and gets what we are trying to say?
I think we also write to make sense of life. Living through Sandy, when life as we knew it was suspended, where our lives were upended and where we didn’t know what to expect the next day or the day after that, writing helps us bring some kind of order to the unexplainable chaos. Why do things happen? Must they happen? Can we avoid them? Why do we meet the people we do? Would our lives have turned out differently if we hadn’t? Life, most times, doesn’t run predictably. We live it trying to make sense of it. We have routines, structures and habits to help us. Writing could be another habit of ours.
But then again maybe we write because we just can’t help it. For some of us, writing is an act of will. Are we underplaying the role of determinism? Some things like Superstorm Sandy are determined to happen –we can prepare for them and plan our actions, yes. But we just can’t stop them. Whatever we do, we have to dream up stories, create characters and plot lines and pen them down.
What do you think? Why do you write?