This post originates at Red Sofa Literary.
I had to think awhile on this. Why do I write, day after day, word after word? Did I actually choose it, or did it somehow choose me? Interesting things to ponder, right? I think many of us, no matter what we find ourselves doing with our time, could benefit from reflecting on why we do what we do; digging into what’s underneath our chosen lifestyle; getting at the root of our actions.
Most of my writing begins when there are no pens, pencils, journals, paper, devices or computers in sight. I run (or nordic ski in the winter) the little two mile loop around my house or hike a local trail most day of the week, and writing happens when I’m out there moving through the elements. A few words that eventually become a poem will pop into my head while navigating a rocky trail. An image gets stuck in my mind’s eye during a long easy jog down a black tar road that eventually turns into a scene. A phrase latches onto my brain as my feet move methodically, one step after the other, under a canopy of trees or the heat of the midday sun, and it’s the foundation of the chapter of a book.
When I think about it this way, it seems like writing is choosing me – in that rather than forcing myself to settle in a chair and put pen to paper at a certain time each day, I’m using everyday living to fuel my art and inspire action. This sounds more romantic than it is, of course.
Some days it comes easy and I feel like I have brilliant new ideas to work with; some days I get home with nothing on my mind except for the fact that I haven’t yet thought of anything good to make for supper. But the days when the ideas strike, those are the days that make me feel like it’s worth it to keep getting out there, paying attention, and sharing what comes into being when I notice. As Annie Dillard wrote, “Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.” There is always something to notice.
When I put words to these things I notice – to my experiences – I want to give voice to the beauty that can be found in the ordinary, as well as to simply tell the truth as I see it unfolding in my own life (beautiful or not). Many of the other writers I know have said something along the lines of “I write because I can’t not write.” I can claim the same sentiment: I write because it’s a way of wrestling with what’s going on in my head, in my community, and on the planet. It’s a way of figuring out how I truly feel about something and putting my introverted and often soft-spoken voice out into the world. I write because it invites me to add layers to my life in ways that wouldn’t be there if I didn’t.
So I suppose you could say that writing chose me first, but I continue to choose it, day after day, word after word, each time I let my experiences and what I notice about them speak through the pen.