“We use words to tell stories for different reasons, all of us. Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas said that he wrote for revenge. My friend Linda said she writes because it is either that or vomiting. Because it wells up inside of her, fills her, threatening to burst from her if she doesn’t first disgorge it in the form of words, clicks on her keyboard. My daughter Kate said she writes to make things more real. A flower that would otherwise be shriveled, decayed, lost forever; any moment, perhaps the first tentative smile that suggests a flicker of interest between a boy and a girl; any gesture, perhaps when he nervously reached up to scratch the side of his face in his shy hopefulness. Any of these, all of these, can be detailed, described, made to last forever, made real when they would otherwise be lost, gone.”
That is a quote from YOU, IN YOUR GREEN SHIRT, my first novel. I have been thinking a lot about this again, this business of why we write. I am brand new at blogging, and have been browsing through other writers’ blogs, many of which have names such as “The Joy of Writing” and “Ecstasy of Words.”
Really? I mean: really? Am I that different from so many of my brethren? Am I alone in thinking that writing is, generally speaking, one very small step away from torture?
This reminds me of when I began running, more than ten years ago now, and knowing my newbie status, everyone kept asking: “How about that runner’s high!?!” “Don’t you just love that rush you get!?!” So for weeks, which turned into months, I thought I must be doing something wrong. I waited for it. I watched for any little sign. Mostly I felt like I was going to keel over or vomit every single second, but was pretty sure that neither of those feelings qualified as a “high.”
What I did experience was this: jubilation when it was ALL OVER!!! When the run was complete, and I had LIVED (!) and could feel an enormous sense of relief and a slight feeling of accomplishment.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much what writing is like for me.
The process of it, the putting forth or words onto a page (ha-screen) is something I find arduous (and can I just mention here that I went through 40 HOURS of labor with NO MEDICATION, so I KNOW arduous), soul-sucking, lonely, grueling, and yes, at times, truly torturous. So why in the world do it?!
Because when it is done, when the words are on the page, and you know, really know, that you have managed to say exactly what you wanted to say, there is no better feeling in the world. None.