Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Do You Write?

It's one of the most common questions a writer is asked, right up there with Where do you get your ideas?

I'm not sure why this question is so common. I've never felt the urge to ask a painter why she paints, or a musician why he plays. I suppose I've always figured they do so because they can paint or play, and because they cannot NOT paint or play.

But there it is, the persistent question: Why do you write?
In my weaker moments, I wonder if this question is because the asker doubts that I should be writing. That perhaps my time would be better spent elsewhere. That they sense I would be a terrific Wal-mart greeter, for example.

Over the years I've dolled up my answers to this question. Dressed them up in the clothes of my current release, or infused them with inflated purpose as I've hammered out novels that I secretly fear will never measure up.

I've fallen back on the same assumptions I make about painters and musicians: I simply can't NOT write.

This, naturally, is gibberish. I adore writing, but if forced to by some unfathomable, larger than life reason to pitch writing altogether, I would still have purpose in life.

It isn't writing I can't give up. It's story.
Story is the best way I understand life. Maybe the only way.

Story is why I was drawn to counseling. I have no interest in telling people what to do, or how to live. What I love about counseling is the opportunity to walk with a person through an unfolding story. Not as an expert, but as a friend who is willing to seek wisdom alongside you.
And that's the second part of what I can't give up, and why I write.

I can't give up my questions. I have so many, many questions about what it means to be here, alive on the planet. What it means to make friends, to lose things, to break, and to be broken. There is so much I don't understand, and so I pair my questions with story.
And inside the stories I write, I looking for a friend who is willing to seek wisdom alongside me.

I bid you good writing.


Jan Cline said...

Good thoughts...I love how writing makes me learn, explore, dig deep, stretch and then put it all together in a neat package called a story. And when I know that someone else has read it...no better feeling than that.

Steve G said...

The ability to answer that question in life is not very common. What could I not do? What questions do I need answered? The ability usually means there's been a long journey to this point. I'll walk with you the rest of the way.

sarah said...

Bonnie this is beautifully written..It hits home being both a writer and a counselor. Story...awesome answer.

Megan Sayer said...

Bonnie this is so spot on (again!).
I was in a D and M yesterday with a friend about the idiotic behaviour of the unrequited love of her life, and she says to me, "how come you've got such a good understanding of why he's acting the way he is?"
Good question! I had to stop and think for a while. Apart from the fact that I've also done myriad stupid things over the years, the real reason is that as a writer I make it my business to explore people's stories, and how their thoughts and fears play out in their actions. Wow, who knew that some day it would be useful!