A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire…
Why I Write
I saw Ann Patchett read from her story “The Getaway Car,” when I was in my mid twenties. I was newly married and newly mothered and life was laid out bare in front of me, a blank canvas pregnant with open-ended possibility. While I knew little about what I wanted to do yet, I knew this: I was going to write.
So when Ann talked about how difficult writing was, when she said, “only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words,” I started to shift uncomfortably in my seat. I got a little sweaty. My heart sped up.
How hard could writing really be, I wondered. I mean, I had never done it, but I had penned many stories in my head and shared many others leaning across a bar stool in the years before my babies came. I’d had visions of myself breezily typing out novels at a bistro table outside a coffee house, baby on breast, a self-satisfied smile stretched across my glowing face. And here was one of my heroes eloquently and honestly shitting all over my dream.
Except, of course, Ann was right. I have written now, one memoir and a million personal essays, most of which are total crap and none of which will ever come close to touching the magic that she pens, and still: every single one of those words that bled out of me hurt like a son of a bitch.
The truth is writing is heartbreaking. It’s other things too: exhausting, humbling, tedious, painful, addictive, consuming, annoying. It calls my name in the middle of the night now, waking me from the first deep sleep I’ve had in months and insisting I put pen to paper only to have the words elude me when I rise. It teases me with promises of fulfillment just to leave me aching. And even when the words are flowing and things are at their best, it still brings me back to where I was in that chair: a little sweaty, a little uncomfortable, my heart thumping away in my ears.
And I’ve released these word babies now all over so there are pieces of me floating in the wind, too many to keep track of, which is perhaps the worst part of all: by design we are really just doing the same terrible thing we do when we raise our flesh babies. We are priming something we love to leave us.
But I would argue—and I hope Ann would agree–that this is exactly why we have to do this. Because it’s the things that pull us apart and put us back together again in a whole different way–childbirth and motherhood and art and everything worth anything—that make us into something so much bigger in the end than the sum of all our shattered pieces.
So we simply must write, even though the doing so will likely break our hearts. We must write until the opening onto the paper becomes both a source of pain and a relief from it. And only when we set the words free, so do we set ourselves.
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