Why Write? by @EdenBaylee
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing of late, more thinking than writing, especially late at night. This makes me want to beat myself up mentally sometimes, makes me wonder why I can't sleep.
In the past, when want-to-be writers wanted to chat about writing, I obliged but with some trepidation. I don’t do small talk, and to wax poetic on the craft of writing seemed meaningless unless there was real life application. Were we writing a book together? If not, then what I had to contribute would probably be of little help. I’m not an academic, and theorizing about writing can never take the place of the act of writing itself. It’s a discipline that's learned while putting it in practice.
Writing is also a solitary endeavour, not a group effort. I say this even though I write with a partner every month. Bill Kirton (who also contributes to this site) and I compose stories together, but our individual pieces are written without prior discussion, so the act of writing is in isolation. It’s only in the final stage of piecing together our parts that we feel a need to discuss (sometimes argue) craft and aspects of the story.
So, let me meander a bit and tell you about a nightmare I had last night. I hardly ever remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me even into the morning. In my dream, I was lying in bed; someone was beside me—a woman. I couldn’t tell who she was, but then she began shapeshifting. That she was transforming into something else scared me, even though she didn’t appear to have evil intentions. When I tried getting out of bed and screaming for help, my body froze in place and my voice was silenced. I woke up my husband with my rapid breathing, which he said also escalated in volume. I’ve had less than a handful of nightmares in all the years we’ve been together. I can’t even remember the last time I woke him up with one. Strangely though, I fell back to sleep easily afterward. Unfortunately for my husband, he didn’t. Don't worry, he took a nap later, heh.
Back to writing …
No other animal writes. From a purely biological angle, writing is unnecessary for our survival. So … why write? An author whom I respect recently said to me: “It’s a compulsion. Even when it’s difficult and I accomplish little at the end of the day, I feel better when I write.”
I get it. It may only be a few hundred words, but it adds momentum to a work in progress.
In communication with another writer, I tried to express the difference between spoken word and the written word. Spoken words are ephemeral, and unless someone records them on audio or writes them down, they’re gone forever. Writing is more permanent, and nowhere is this more apparent than in social media. Words can come back to haunt its writer.
We may speak before we think, but we almost never write before we think, and it’s this mental investment toward what will eventually be written that is overlooked as “work.” It’s mind work, and it’s impossible to quantify or qualify. This work can play havoc with us as we become better writers, as our inner critics become more discerning. Where once only a few words mattered, now it requires that every word be the right one.
Add to this the question of the value of writing. What is the point of it and who needs my voice anyway? The world won’t stop because I choose not to write. As humans, we do a lot of seemingly futile things that don’t ask us to account for its value in time spent, so I keep returning to my question … why write?
And the answer is as simple as: Words have power, and it's the best way I know how to communicate. It won’t cure all the ills of the world, but it reflects who I am in ways that other inconsequential tasks do not.
Drawing on old dream interpretation theory, I believe the woman in bed next to me was just another version of myself. In this strange time of isolation, while overthinking my work pursued in a solitary environment, my subconscious felt the need to give me a jab. It certainly keeps life interesting anyway.
How about you, why do you write? Please feel free to share.