“Why write? Why write at all?”
Why write? It’s a big question, and an attempt to answer it could probably spark a more lively debate than the recent presidential ones. In answer to his own question, Edward Abbey joked: “I write mainly for the money. Only a blockhead would write for anything else.” But then he revealed some of his deeper motivations, including the idea that “Through the art of language…we communicate to others what would be intolerable to bear alone.” Beautifully put. I was thinking about this question the other night when I was writing. I got so frustrated at what I was working on that I started crying. Seriously. And then the next morning, when I returned to my laptop with a cup of coffee and read it again, it didn’t stink that bad. I thought then that it could have been mended. The obvious question followed: why do I do this? And the answers came just as easily: I love writing. I want freedom in my work and schedule. No one else in the world is going to say it for me. I have a lot of hate, too, and writing tempers it. I am nobody without words, nobody without love. And maybe if I could say something that meant something to somebody else, it would make a difference.
If anyone out there would like to reveal the reasons for why you do what you do, please feel free to leave a comment. And I’ll leave you with what one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), has to say about her life’s motivations:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Until his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Abbey, Edward. Abbey’s Road. New York: Plume Printing, 1979.
Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1924; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/113/. October 16, 2008.
Photo: taken near Abbey’s canyon country at Indian Creek, Utah.