(Though I greatly enjoy the various themes and questionnaires that occasionally pepper the blogosphere, I rarely take part in them. A holdover from adolescent rebellion perhaps, but whenever I agree to participate in something like that, I find my commitment soon undergoes a dark alchemy, taking on the personality of an “assignment”, the result being a procrastination that is both irritating and familiar. However, when not one, but two, of my favourite blogging friends asked me to take part in a collective topic on writing, I felt I should comply. Both Jeanne Henriques and Cait O’Connor are wonderful observers of the beauty of life and I would no doubt want to do whatever they asked of me. However, I’m late with this posting and having read the instructions thoroughly only after I finished writing, I realize I flubbed them a bit. But I hope they’ll forgive me and accept my little offering nonetheless.)
Why I Write
For as long as I can remember, the written word has been as much a part of my life as food and drink, soap and water, earth and sky. My Mother read to me every day and night which is an activity known to infect most children with the tendency to crave words for the rest of their lives. It was, and remains, a bright fascination to me that the apparent simplicity of black words on a white page contains such revelatory and transformative power; power to call forth laughter or sobs, power to change a mind, power to bring back the dead.
It wasn’t long until I realized I loved putting my own words down on paper. Poems, long letters, little stories; I wrote these for many years. But it wasn’t until about six years ago that I began writing on a regular basis and pushed open a door in my life, long open only a crack, to enter a colourful world full of delight and sorrow, future and past. I have reveled in this world ever since. Though it’s true that we often only see through a glass darkly, in writing I’ve discovered quiet, tiny clues to a greater understanding of myself and the world around me. I have learned to better read between the lines of my own life. As Flannery O’Connor so eloquently put it: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I now know precisely what she meant.
Writing for me is the net with which I catch all those microscopic moments that disappear in an instant; too seemingly insignificant to be captured and held for later, too ordinary to be remembered, but that, with a writer’s eye, contain more wisdom and beauty than a grand parade. Virginia Woolf once said, “I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond daily life”. For myself, I think there are riches hidden inside daily life which need only to be mined and held up to the light to reveal more magic than we can imagine. Writing is how I mine those riches.
Writing is also how I harness memory. The more I write, the more I remember. It is perhaps no coincidence that my writing began in earnest the summer after my Father died. As Eudora Welty said in her brilliant book, The Optimist’s Daughter, “Memory returned like Spring.... had the character of Spring. In some cases, it was the old wood that did the blooming”. The trees of my memory blossom anew each time I sit down to write and I find a greater capacity of understanding and acceptance drifting down on my shoulders even as the words are written, and it is often the oldest memories that are the most prolific.
My process is not as disciplined as I would like. I often watch The Songwriter head to his studio - coffee cup in hand, Apple at his heels - and marvel at his consistency. I seem to store up ideas and thoughts until I overflow in a marathon of writing that results in a bleary-eyed, stumbling appearance that has been known to scare off the UPS man at one glance. I do find however that the more I view my writing as a priority in my day, the more control I have over the ebb and flow of my inspiration. It seems the muse can be tamed. It’s something I’m working on.
As to what I’m working on now.... as I type I am currently ensconced in a serene house in the marshes of South Carolina where I am writing away. But it’s secret. We’ll see what happens. I promise, ... you’ll be the first to know! Some of my earlier essays can be found in the book, From the House of Edward... you can find it HERE.
Me and my writing partner on the marshes this week.
I know, now after I’ve written this, that I didn’t follow the instructions well. I hope Jeanne and Cait will understand. I also hope you’ll visit their blogs as well. You’ll find wonderful writing there. I would also recommend you visit Angus, Bob and Sophie for daily observations of life as they live it in deepest France where great wisdom often masquerades as ordinary life. It’s a daily read for me. Then I would send you over to The Weaver of Grass for a beautiful account of daily life on a Yorkshire farm. If you’re lucky, perhaps Pat will have posted a poem that day. And on to Edinburgh to Cornflower Books, for stimulating discussions on the written word. And back round to Dartmoor to visit Into The Hermitage, a world as unique and beautiful as its writer. Enjoy!
Top photo: Virginia Woolf's writing desk at Monk's House.
I was fortunate to have been there this week last year.