Why We Write Even When We Have No Time
Believe it or not, I had planned on writing this week to tell you that I would be curtailing my postings, reducing my output from three to two missives weekly while I turn my attention to my freelance work. Hah! Did you hear that? We make plans, and God laughs. What motivates a person to write? More specifically, what motivates a pressed-for-time blogger to take on such a commitment during the portal month to the holiday season?
I'll tell you. The things you learn when you begin blogging.
November, it appears, is National Blog Posting Month, or, in blogging lingo, NaBloPoMo. Well, at least it is on a site known as BlogHer. For those like me who are new to this wondrous phenomenon, BlogHer is a rich and robust destination on the Web where women who blog (and the men who love them?) can find inspiration, community, and, it appears, nifty badges like the one shown above.
About this badge. I'm going to try and earn its keep on my own blog this month by making an effort to post something every day. Yes, you heard me. Every. Day. This. Month. This is an ambitious undertaking because, as we all know, November in America features that delectable holiday of food and gratitude, Thanksgiving. This is immediately followed by the chaos known to American retail commerce as Black Friday. Oh, and I'm starting two fairly substantial freelance projects in November.
Madness, indeed. Believe it or not, I had planned on writing this week to tell you that I would be curtailing my postings, reducing my output from three to two missives weekly while I turn my attention to my freelance work. Hah!
Did you hear that? We make plans, and God laughs.
What motivates a person to write? More specifically, what motivates a pressed-for-time blogger to take on such a commitment during the portal month to the holiday season? I'm rather embarrassed to admit it, but in this case there are prizes involved. Now I'm not saying that I can be had for the price of a free book, but there exists a part of me that thrills to the idea of someone calling my name and handing me something. Lottery winnings, for example. And since we all know that's never going to happen (well … maybe if I started buying them …), this is as close as I'm likely to get to that rush of adrenaline.
Oh yes. And there is the matter of the creative process. Each day BlogHer will post a NaBloPoMo "writing prompt," a question designed to stoke the imaginative engine. Today the question is:
What is your favourite part about writing?
(Apparently the person who drafted this question is Canadian. Can I hear a huzzah from my readers up in Canada?)
My favorite part about writing, aside from affixing the final period to an essay or article, is the roll-up-your-sleeves hard work of it all. Paradoxically, that's the part I also love the least. And yet … I love the way that I manage to disappear into the world of whatever it is I'm writing, whether it's a poem or prose. It's a world that I am creating and one that I alone am responsible for ordering, so I consider it a grave assignment, even when I'm writing something that I hope will elicit a laugh or a smile.
It is also a world of play. I love to play with language, with words and their sounds, which is probably why I began my writing life as a poet. One of the first college textbooks I ever bought was called Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry. I loved it then, and I love it still. It's actually to the right of me now, on my bookshelf. I love the fact that editor Laurence Perrine chose to give primacy to the word sound. Sense will come, but later. For me, sound has always been the lure that will bring me 'round to my senses.
I've always thought of writing as thinking on paper. To this day, if I want to learn something, I write about it. It used to be that I wrote poems to understand philosophy or history. Or other poems. It's no surprise, then, that this method would evolve to the point where I am writing a blog to further my education—an education about a life. Mine. And every bit as important as exercising the life of the mind.
Joan Didion, in her 1976 New York Times magazine essay, "Why I Write," explains why she stole George Orwell's title:
"Of course I stole the title … from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:
Far be it from me to compare myself to the glorious Joan Didion, but I understand her meaning here. One of the ways in which we differ, though, is the fact that while she views writing as an act of imposing oneself upon other people by the act of saying "I," I tend to see the act of writing as an imposition of one's "eye." I have an eye on the world. (For this reason I have always loved the title of the Christopher Isherwood play, I Am a Camera.)
It makes me happy to observe and explore my subject from various angles—lit by language—and present it to you, my reader. I'm far more comfortable with the "eye" of writing than I am with the "I." Perhaps this is one reason why it's taken me until now to make this very real commitment to a writing life.
Writing one post a day might strengthen that commitment. Who knows? We can hope …
Photo Credit: Quatro Sinko.