I believe I write to keep the world in perspective. To knock it back from its skewed axis enough to try and understand it. I write to avoid the ever-feared cliché, to get inside the ring with a paragraph and work it over until it pleads for the bell. I write because I am hopelessly in love with the sound of words.
Mostly, I think I write to discover foreign lands within myself. Perhaps it would be wise to consider leaving the shore more than once in a while.
In a world where what we see is what we get, it is important as writers to brighten that image; to make it accessible to as many people as possible. We can make blades of grass into tiny green swords that swipe at our shins. Skyscrapers become stilts for God. Tree branches are like twisted, arthritic hands. We hold the power of metamorphosis in our hands and all we have to do is get black on white. But we are not magicians. We can’t turn numbness into passion. We can’t use our pencils to erase wrong, and the sting of heartache still smolders even when cloaked in eloquent language.
Sometimes I wonder if the seeds of my existence were watered with the ink of great authors and this is what pushes my pen to the paper at night and on sad days. Or maybe it is simply the need to write. What is true in the world? What is our purpose in the universe? How do I live my life? On countless pages, I deliberate. I spread the wrinkles of my mind flat in order to take more in and then I write.
Sometimes I wonder at the eerie fleetingness of the written word. When a writer settles into his bed at night and picks up his journal to record the slips and falls of his day, it seems odd to me the urgency to get it all down. It’s sad really, the art of writing things down in a journal or diary because when you think about it, we write things down to remember them later. Do I write because I want to remember my own life?
Inevitably, the answer to that question, like many of the wonders of the world, is to write. It is a vicious cycle, like playing duck-duck-goose with myself. I must write in order to understand why I write.
Stepping onto foreign soil is not always the easiest task. There are many obstacles to tackle on the road to self-discovery. Writers are pretentious, arrogant. We belong to workshops, we are serious. We are the most popular kids in school and also the ones who care less about football games and more about Chaucer or scientific notation. We like to talk about words. We hate each other, are viciously jealous, but can recognize a good thing when we read it, even if it is not our own. We steal from Joyce, Hemingway, Baldwin and Whitman with no intentions of returning what we take. We scan the dictionary for the perfect word, and then devour it like wolves. We are ruthless, proud, demure, and calculating, but at least we are all these things together.
A writer’s biggest fear and ally is the world itself. I am sometimes afraid that I will not be able to adequately and justly recount the world around me. It is almost like a blind man seeing for the first time. There are so many aspects to sight: color, space, shade, size, movement, that to realize all these things at once would send any mind reeling.
As a writer, I fear this disillusion, yet desperately seek to capture it. No matter how difficult, if a writer succeeds, then he or she has contained the world—lassoed its rearing, ugly head and corked it in, like a tiny ship in a bottle. From this triumph, we can poke and prod to learn more about ourselves and our lives within this world. We begin to understand from rolling the bottle between our hands how small the world is, and what connects us to its every aspect. Language transcends barriers of race and gender. We name everything, like Adam and Eve voraciously scouring the Garden of Eden, in hopes of lending meaning to what we see. Words act as grafts between cultures. And ultimately, writer or not, we begin to see worth in the art of writing.
And I do think that only the observant eye of a writer could capture all the elements of sight at once. However, unlike a photographer, our negatives develop on paper. Instead of using shadow and light to know something is round, we use adjectives and similes. We can sway a reader by changing the round object into a ripe, fuzzy peach, or a different kind of round, the ethereal sphere of a bubble freshly blown. A photograph cannot intensify the experience, it only documents the reality.
Some say the written world is not real. They claim it is an embellished representation of what one person thinks is real. I disagree. Allowing ourselves into other people’s perceptions is what makes our lives real. By stepping onto their shores, we are given permission to question, to run about barefoot and wonder like a child. We see for the first time all over again.
The written world is the only medium that lets us travel to these foreign lands consistently and without resistance. Writers offer a kind of displacement that one can only get lost in through words. A good book can take you anywhere you want to go. Where else are we permitted to wander and explore the capacities of our own minds and free ourselves of the world we know for a moment or two?
Writing is the fount of our existence. For thousands of years, writers have existed from the primitive scrawlings of the cavemen to the circumspectly structured theories of the philosophers. That is not to say that in order to write, you must be one of the world’s greatest thinkers, this is plainly not the case as so clearly demonstrated by this meager blog. I think some of the best writers do write for a higher purpose, they too, are in search of a safe harbor for their thoughts.
But perhaps writing is for the bold. It is for people who seek to find and don’t stop until they have reached somewhere they have never been. It is for those few who have an irreconcilable need to express. And again, for those who simply wish to create something they are proud of. Ayn Rand said that she decided to be a writer, not in order to save the world, or to serve her fellow men, but for the simple, personal, selfish, and egotistical happiness of creating the kind of men and events she could like, respect and admire. There is a certain poignancy in wanting to assemble something as honest as that.
I sometimes laugh when I call myself a writer. Images of me in twenty years in a dimly lit room with bad wallpaper, hunched over a typewriter, a cigarette dangling from my lips and a short glass of warm whiskey on the desk next to me abound through my head. I see my face, and I am shocked at the immutable frown I wear. Then, I look more closely and see the corners of my mouth quiver and upturn ever so slightly and I know this is the beginnings of a smile.
I am revealed, I have found another sandy shore.
This, I believe.
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