“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”
George Orwell, “Why I Write“
I’ve worked as a professional writer for 30 years, since graduating from Columbia in 1985. I make my living in what they now call marketing writing, but what used to be called other things like public relations or copywriting. I live in that world 8 hours a day.
At the end of that day, I want to work on something else, something closer to my heart: fiction writing. I’ve dabbled in it all my life, off and on, but, now in my early 50s, I’m feeling a new commitment to it. About a year ago, I plunged back into it, thanks to some help from some good friends, a very good reading/writing group, and an excellent writing class here in Tucson, AZ, where I reside.
The thing is, for the better part of a decade prior, I was not writing. Nothing felt good. Sometimes I strapped myself in for Nanowrimo (that’s National Novel Writing Month). I’d write my 50,000 words in the 30 days of November but end up with an ungainly mess that I could barely stand to look at, a child I’d rather leave on someone’s doorstep than take responsibility for. Sporadically, I’d produce a globule of writing, which would end up residing uneasily on my hard drive, not knowing if it was wanted or not.
The years when I wasn’t writing productively were bad. I felt lost. I had a job, and family. But no purpose. And no sense of my own identify. I was just a guy taking up space in the world, like the writing fragments taking up space on my computer.
But when I started writing again, I found myself again. As the writing muscles flexed, and the words began to flow, I felt as if my very life juices were beginning to flow again. I knew who I was. Why I was on this planet.
That’s what I want this blog to be about. Sure, there are many reasons to write. Fame. Fortune. Sex. Money. In that order. (Actually, if it’s those four things, any order will do.)
But the best reason to write is to stay sane.
Yes, sane. After all, it’s a tough world out there. It’s not always fun. The news is wall to wall with hatred and craziness. It’s a Kellogg’s Variety Pack of shame, violence, inhumanity, vulgarity and Kardashians.
The world can wear you down, trample on your joi de vivre and take the starch out of your sunflower. If you are meant to write, born to write, I believe you will lose your sense of self if you fail to do so. In Orwell’s words, you will outrage your true nature.
As Ray Bradbury said: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
(Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. I was lucky enough to hear you speak once, and I’ll never forget it.)
That’s what I’m going to try to do this with this blog, jotting down thoughts on writing, some heady and high flying, some practical and soil-based.
I’ll talk about books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen. Conversations I’ve had. Classes I’ve taken. Journals I’ve submitted stories to. Anything that feeds the spirit and charges up the creative batteries, and leads you to write, write, write.
I have a corollary to Bradbury’s sentiment, a parallel sentiment but one perhaps with larger implications for leading a satisfactory life. It’s a motto to remember for any of us who have carried around large baggage, letting the weight stifle our heartsongs from ringing out loud and clear.
In the Gnostic text known as the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
So bring forth. Write. Yourself. Sane.