‘Why do you write?’ is the question. Simple on the surface, but a can of worms underneath, and it is a question I am all too familiar with, and unreasonably troubled by.
When I tell someone that I write, ‘What do you write?’ or its variations come first, followed closely by that three-letter interrogative inquest that never fails to send my mind racing, as I try to come up with something poignant, or funny, or pragmatic, but I always come up short. I’ve told them I write because it is the only thing that makes sense to me. Cliched. I’ve responded ‘Why don’t you write?’ Not funny, and maybe a little condescending. I’ve said it’s the only thing I know how to do well. Unfortunately, and unintentionally ironic. Why, then, do I write?
‘Because I like it’ could very well be a reasonable answer, but it’s simply not true. Sometimes I hate it, loathe it, and it has kept me up at night, thinking about the things I’ve written in the past—novels worth of words, talking in circles about absolutely nothing, soliciting compliments from peers who would rather have nothing to do with it—and the thought that I dared to even feel a sense of pride or accomplishment in doing the minimum. Yet, I write. The ‘why’ is not a question I often put to myself, not because of anything profound, but because I do not have an honest answer. Then again, I’ve never truly pondered the question either. And another question lies in wait: Would I like the answer I find?
The ‘answer,’ I say, but is there a singular motive behind it all, a quintessential rationale that drives anyone to write? And if there is, would not the profundity of that quintessence conceptually be unfathomable? Alternatively, if there is more than one reason for anyone to write, the question then seem to lose its efficacy. Yet, I write, and there must be a reason why; what makes me pick up the pen, what makes me put my fingers on the keyboard, and create?
What if we rid the question of its weight—voluntarily imposed or otherwise? What if it’s simply a question asked naturally, say, at a party, by an acquaintance I like, with the two of us standing in the balcony alone, cigarettes in one hand and glasses in the other. Why do I write?
Well, I write because I’m in love, and I write because my heart’s been broken. I write because I’m happy, and I write because I’m sad. Because I hope, and because I despair. Because I achieve, and because I lose. And there are a million other reasons why I write, even when it goes unread.
So now, if asked again, I’d say something like . . .
‘I write because it is the only thing that makes sense to me and the only thing I know how to do well. Why don’t you write?’
[But what I really mean would be, ‘because I want to be heard.’ And don’t we all, at some level or another, in one way or another. I write because I want to communicate, and especially because I want to communicate what can’t be communicated.]
Thank you all so much for all the reading you’ve done through this past year. There were many moments in between where I failed to see the point of maintaining this blog, but then I came across a quote by Jeffrey Eugenides in an interview with The Paris Review:
I think about the reader. I care about the reader. Not “audience.” Not “readership.” Just the reader. That one person, alone in a room, whose time I’m asking for.Eugenides, Jeffrey. “Jeffrey Eugenides, The Art of Fiction.” The Paris Review. 2011
It is this quote that makes me think a lot about why I choose to write, and more than that, why I choose to post my writings in this obscure corner of the internet. I think about you, taking the time out of your busy life, to peruse my clunky prose and nonsensical poetry, and it warms me to think that you, anonymous to me, an unidentified wanderer of this infinitely vast digital sphere, would somehow land on my page and read the sentences and paragraphs and verses that I invent, without judgement, without prejudice.
I think about you. And I thank you.
Have a great Christmas and an even better 2023!
Sincerely, Lian Dousel