(this is an exercise I had to do for a writing class a couple of years ago)
Why do I write? I don’t know – why do I breathe? Sometimes I can’t. Why do I get up early? Sometimes I have to. I write because I can’t dance. Because charm, wealth, and beauty weren’t enough for me. I write because I have to. Not in the ‘this paper is due Friday or you fail’ kind of ‘have to’ but the ‘have to’ of compulsion. Of need. Psychological, emotional, and even physical need. Writing is what I do. It’s my life, my obsession, my addiction. It’s cheaper than therapy and easier to come by than Prozac. For me, writing just is. The world is my rough draft and I’m going to keep revising until I die.
My profession in the past, and no doubt for the foreseeable future, has basically been the path of least resistance. Whatever job I could get. Usually clerical, it usually involves some type of “creative” writing – meaning writing that I have to make up, whether it was formal letters to students, explanatory or entreating emails to the higher ups, a summary of statistics for the boss, or other mundane responsibilities of office life. I enjoy that kind of writing, but it’s not the kind of writing that matters to me. To paraphrase a Harry Chapin song, that’s my livelihood, not my life.
In a perfect world, my profession would be a wildly successful, yet naturally humble, blockbuster novelist. That profession would require not only the skills of fiction to write my novels, but the skills of tact and wit to answer the voluminous piles of sappy fan letters I’d obviously receive. The kind of sappy fan letters I used to send back when I thought John Denver should rule the world, if he didn’t already.
Writing has always mattered in my life, ever since I learned how to write, and it will always matter in my life. But the passionate, energetic, and sometimes just plain pissed off writer that I used to be, back when I wrote letters to the editor that got me interviewed on the radio when they wanted to log Allegany State Park, letters to my Congressman and Senators about environmental issues that one time earned me a basically “leave me alone” response from someone I can’t remember now, the writer who thought words could and would change the world, has mellowed, backed off, taken on more responsibility now and just plain doesn’t have enough time for all the writing that a consumer and citizen might do.
I get pissed too easily to deal effectively with political matters, and if I have a gripe with a company, I find that a phone call containing the words “fraud” and “State Attorney General’s Office” generally goes a lot farther a lot quicker than a sternly worded letter.
These days, my writing mostly consists of my stories and novels, and a lot of fan fiction, that bastard child of creative writing. I write poetry when prose isn’t enough for a topic or emotion. I work mainly on my laptop. I used to enjoy writing longhand – a good pen that would make the paper all crinkly when I turned the pages – but I find now that I write so hard my hand gets tired and I’m in my own light a lot and that really annoys me. I mostly only write longhand in my journal or when I’m writing lists of things I need to do, that I generally never do anyway. Or when an idea hits me when I’m not near my laptop and I have to write it down before it drills its way out of my head.
My goal in writing is to write. No more, no less. Sure I’d like to be widely (and wildly) published – the Buffalo News published a poem of mine once and sent me $20 and I almost quit my day job. But while that’s part of the plan, it’s not my ultimate goal. My goal is to write.