Why I Write
This week my short stories yield to a few personal comments on writing. I have several stories in the works, all of which need endings. Coming soon. Today I attempt to answer the question: why do I write? I don’t have a single answer for that. It has varied over time. Varied as I transitioned from non-fiction to fiction.
Presently a Hemingway quote moves me: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
And there is so much hurt. Some personal, some physical/medical, some PTSD from COVID lockdowns, much of it political and global. So much beyond my control. Writing short stories is my way of dealing with the hurt. My hurt. The hurt that so many others bear.
Only last night I discovered an interview with writer Percival Everett. I had never heard of him before. He talked about why he writes. He is not an outliner. He carries it in his head, creating what he calls a kind of map. Ironically, a map is, for him, an excuse to get lost. “It gives you a certain kind of security that allows you to wander into a place you don’t know.”
I can relate to that. I rarely outline. When I am carrying a short story in my head, I don’t know where it will take me. Often into a place I don’t know. It might be an unexpected, even quirky ending. It could be a character whose traits I initially knew nothing about. And it is both fun and a challenge to go to these unknown places.
Everett goes on to talk about who his readers are. “When people ask me who’s my audience, I can’t imagine one, since everybody’s different. So my audience has to be myself. I write for myself, knowing that at any given time I’m not the same person that this was created for. The writer who made it is gone and no longer exists. So what it meant to that writer is gone too. The only meaning that’s left is to be made by whoever is reading it at that moment.”
I can appreciate that comment. Writing coaches so often advise authors to identify their ideal readers, even if it is a narrow base. I have always found that difficult. Yes, I know who some of my readers are. I have no clue who most of them are. (Always assuming I actually have readers!)
I do write for myself. And yes, I come back to my drafts, my stories, as a different person each time I read the item. I can only assume my readers come to them differently as well.
Why do I write? To go to unknown places. Places that may alleviate the hurt.