does not describe me fully
it is where to start
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Why Do I Write? - Part 2
Whenever I take my role as Writer/Author too seriously, I recall what Stephen King says in his book On Writing: It's “… just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks.”
Having dethroned the writer as an exalted being, King does not address why some of us choose to be plumbers and others are drawn to, say, writing novels. Of himself, he says only that writing fiction is “… what makes me happy, because it’s what I was made to do.”
Margaret Atwood, inNegotiating with the Dead, dedicates two pages to listing why writers write. The list includes everything from “To record the world as it is …” or to “… produce order out of chaos …” or to “…attract the love of a beautiful woman … man ….” In the end, she concludes that “… any search for a clutch of common motives would prove fruitless ….”
Pablo Neruda in his poem Poet’s Obligationseems to allude to some higher calling. "So, drawn on by my destiny, … through me, freedom and the sea will call in answer to the shrouded heart.”
When asked why I write, I usually respond by saying, I do it because I can’t not write. As described in my post, The Family Business, I seem to be genetically coded for writing.
The tenor of my response changes, though, when I receive a rejection from yet another literary publication or agent. That’s when I scratch my head and wonder why I’m giving so much precious energy to an endeavor that sometimes no one but me sees. At times, I force myself to take a vacation from writing because “I’m not getting anywhere.”
Then I’ll wake up one morning with my fingers itching to get to the keyboard. I will open up a file and soon I will be racing to catch up with whatever is in me that seeks written expression. In the process, I'll feel as fulfilled as I have ever felt about anything.
When that happens, I recall what Stephen King also said when he admonished the writer to find something you are good at and to do it “... until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”
For me, writing—except when I’m engaged in what seems like the infinity-minus-one draft of a work—is an exceedingly pleasurable experience; indeed, sometimes ecstatic.
My current work-in-progress is a case in point. I now laugh with my characters. I weep with them. As the project progresses, their faces become clearer. I begin to understand their silences, their rages, their hopes, as well as their disappointments. When I reach this point in any fiction project, I know I have to surrender to the process. Stopping feels like a betrayal of my responsibility to these characters.
It may be, then, that I also write to give my characters the expression they would otherwise not have, but for which they hunger, wherever it is they reside when they are not around me. Indeed, once the characters appear in my life, I suffer from a serious case of inquietud, a restlessness that won’t diminish until I give the characters their due.
I’ll end with something else Stephen King said:
“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."