I have enough trouble with specialness, being an only child (and the mother of an only child). I am a tribe of one, a unique snowflake, the center of the universe. So of course being also a very good introspective introvert (as are many only children) I would avoid this attitude at all costs.
But let’s follow the I-can’t-not-write idea a little further. If I, for instance, am caught up in pre-tax season, pulling together paperwork, proving the books for my 12-15 entities, I am usually not writing anything other than a few e-mails (granted, they are edited three times), but I’m not really writing. I might find myself getting a little dull, a little grumpy as I engage that problem solving part of my brain for hours and days on end, rushing to finish while still achieving numerical perfection that is only a little elusive because it is achievable. I get the bulldog complex. Won’t let go, won’t let go, won’t let go. Here’s what’s in my brain: If I can just get this done, I will be able to take a few days off to do some writing. If I just put it all away in neat color-coded folders, send the package off to the CPA, I will be able to WRITE this weekend.
Yes, I like to write. It is fun, it is satisfying, it is pleasure. It is my reward.
But it’s not really true that I can’t not write the same as I can’t not eat or can’t not breathe. I suppose I could not breathe, but I’d be dead then, certainly a valid state of being, or non-being, I suppose.
Here’s a better truth: I LIKE to write.
When I sit down at the computer or over a notebook and start typing or fidgeting with some sentence or paragraph, I get all smiley on the inside. Here I am at last, free and creative. I don’t know where I’ll be led. It’s like traveling to a foreign country. Around the next bend is something new. Or someone new.
Or I find myself wrapping my brain around a nice structural book-length problem. I don’t suffer from writer’s block (though sometimes I just want to go watch TV). Usually, once I get started, the time disappears, and it’s soon lunch time and I’m hungry so I better stop to eat. (This also happens when I’m at one of my favorite clients’ office cranking through the numbers, absorbed, and suddenly look up and it’s four thirty.)
“Keep telling,” my six year old granddaughter Sadie said on a recent visit. She had discovered that I had written a book, that it was published and I was going to do a reading and a book signing in the coming days. So every evening she would sit with me on the back porch and ask me to, “Keep telling.” I’d describe a little more about Atlantis and Iriel and Kelsey and the characters and the story. When I got to the point of needing to provide a PG version of the romantic and sexual tensions that plagued the main characters I told her, “Kelsey has two boyfriends.”
“I have six,” Sadie responded without missing a beat.
Keep telling, that’s the essence of it. Writing seems the most sensible thing to do in light of the stories that run around in my head and the partly edited books that live in my computer.
Making art is an added benefit. Writing, like music, has that surprise element of beauty, a description, a truth, a discovery. When I’m writing I have a chance to express something that I didn’t know before. Maybe my characters reflect some personal truth that I haven’t quite understood, like, what it was like to be a teenager dealing with the death of a parent, or even remembering falling in love or being a child or winning a prize. Or more simply, didn’t I always want to travel to Atlantis?
Here I am with my feet in the sand at last, and the smell of salt in the air and the hush of the ocean filling my ears and clouds drifting overhead and the heat of the sun warming my back.
And then there’s that ambition.
What I really want to do is write something good, something really good. I want to express a UNIVERSAL TRUTH that inspires people, that makes people weep, that makes them laugh and go AH! I want to create a character so universal, so admirable that no-one ever forgets them, whether a Rocky Balboa, or an Anna Karenina, or a Siddhartha. Or a world or history so profound or interesting that everyone wants to go there … Or just make something beautiful.
Are we there yet? No, not yet. How much longer? Until the end of my lifetime, I suppose, and even then I probably won’t know for sure.
So in answer to your question, writing is my soul’s expression which is pretty close to soul purpose, which is pretty close to my reason for being alive. That’s why I write.