Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why Write?

Yesterday, I came across this post on The Cassandra Pages which gave a different point of view to the age old question of why we write.  Beth quotes from this article, which also looks at why we write:  "The reader wants to see; your job is to do the pointing."

But Beth points out all that must happen before writers are ready to do the pointing:  "First we have to train ourselves to be people who actually see something: people who are able to quiet down enough that we become an eye, an ear, a sensitive skin, but not so sensitive that we cannot bear it. Then we have to learn how to express what we have learned through our senses, intelligence, and experience. Finally, we have to learn how to give it away - how to point our effort toward the invisible reader rather than back at ourselves; how to become a vessel that fills and empties over and over again."

She concludes, "Not a bad way to spend a life."

I thought of my friend from England.  For a year, she took the dog to walk in a park and she took her journal with her.  Each and every day, for 365 days, she wrote down what she saw.  And she was amazed by all the things that she saw, all the things she wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't been showing up to observe.

I found that idea so compelling.  I also like the idea of showing up at the same window/location each and every day to take a picture.

In many ways, my daily blogging is similar.  As with daily writing of any kind, I find myself thinking about what I will write long before I sit down at the desk.  I notice many details of my life that would otherwise escape unrecorded, and perhaps unnoticed.

And yes, I do go back periodically and re-read.  I was looking back through July posts of past years when I was working on a 4th of July post for Living Lutheran.  Several years ago, my nephew and I created all sorts of things:  forts, costumes, weapons, creatures.  My nephew started saying, "Make me a superpower, Kris"--as if I could do that out of construction paper and glue!

I had completely forgotten that nugget.  What a wonderful memory!  But it would have been lost forever if I hadn't written it down.

Occasionally someone tells me how the age of blogging is over, and that may be the case.  I'll keep doing it though.  It has benefits for me far above the marketing that I might be able to do, the audiences I might be able to generate, the interest that I could drum up.

Kelli put it eloquently in this blog post: " I just want to say thanks to anyone who reads my blog.  Blogs are not the thing anymore. Short form content like Twitter and Facebook has left what was once a neighborhood filled with interesting poets with empty houses.  I'm still around.  I always wonder when I'll leave, but I hang on, repaint my house and see what happens."


Maureen said...

A friend of mine, L.L. Barkat, wrote a book about her experience of spending time in her yard and observing: "God in the Yard".

Writing is connection, with ourselves and our readers.

Jim Murdoch said...

The age of blogging is dead, eh? So’s the novel apparently, video killed the radio star and computers brought about the end of the printed page. I never realised people were such doom-mongers. Blogging’s not dead. It wasn’t that long ago people were talking about the end of Facebook predicting a large shift towards Twitter but all that happened is that people found a way to tweet and post on Facebook and still squeeze in the odd blog. I agree that blogging probably isn’t as popular as it once was. Jazz and opera aren’t as popular nowadays but they’re still hanging on in there. I’ve been blogging for almost seven years and it suits me just fine. I’m too long-winded for anything else. Granted my readership has tailed off but I still have a small and loyal following. There are people out there who think a book review deserves more than 200 words and I’m one of them. Which brings me to your opening question: Why write?

It depends what I’m writing. I’ve always treated the blogs as a university course. I never went to uni and it’s always bothered me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent my life studying because I have. Not sure I could sit down and take a degree now but I’d like to think I’ve earned an honorary one. So the blogs and the book reviews are me studying. My daughter passed her degree a few months back and we used to talk about her course—Psychology—but the one thing I was appalled to learn was how short they expected her essays to be. Most were like a thousand words. I’ve written longer sentences! The kind of things they were asking her to write about could barely be summarised in a thousand words. So when I write I use as many words as I feel necessary to say what I have to say. I write for me. If anyone else out there appreciates my work then that’s a bonus.

And the same goes for my fiction. I facetiously say I write because I can’t not write and although there’s some truth to that the real reason I write it to work stuff out, stuff that’s too big to hold in my head. The writing could really be discarded after I’ve worked out whatever it is but other people I’ve found, as with the blogs, can benefit from my… let’s call them ‘workings’. So I keep them. I don’t write to tell stories. Never been a storyteller. Never even been one to tell jokes. I never used to think about readers. At least before coming online. Now when I write a part of me can’t help but feel them behind me and to be honest I find them a bit of a nuisance and a distraction.

I do have to wonder what I’d end up writing if I tried that exercise of your friend’s. For a writer I’m really not a very observant person. When my wife came to live with me she commented on the curtains in the living room—I was living in a furnished flat at the time so the décor was not of my choosing—and she mentioned the butterflies to which I replied, “I have butterflies on my curtains?” I’d been living there for three years and these were giant butterflies. How did I miss them? I live inside my head, more now than I ever used to.

Anyway I just thought I’d let you know that I’m still reading your blog. I apologise for the fact that I don’t comment more often but I find that’s the case with most of us these days which is why blogging may appear to be dying; we don’t have the time to comment like we used to. And I do find that a shame. So maybe that’s what’s moved to Facebook, not the blogging per se but the commenting. Much easier to click a LIKE button than write 700 words.

Beth said...

Thanks for picking up this thread where I left off and continuing to muse about the central issues. As Jim says, I'm hanging in there, pretty sure that the reports of the patient's demise were premature.