Crossposted from the WoolfCamp blog and expanded, because I've had a few more days to think about it.
Mary recounts an interview and asks, How would you answer the question, "Why do you write?"
I am stumped. I have never thought about this, partly because I still stubbornly hold that even though I write, I am not a "Writer", and partly because I have written like this for so long (short-attention span writing, first in letters, then in emails, now in blog) that it is completely normal to me and has never even occurred to me to question why. I will ponder this, though, and write more about that.
So now I have pondered it, and I agree with my fellow WoolfCampers and writers on several items. Like the author interviewed, Firoozeh Dumas, I find writing "immensely rewarding. A well-crafted sentence makes me beam every time." Like the commenters in Mary's blog, and Mary herself, writing helps me to organize my thoughts, get clarity through the process of structuring blips into sentences, and to remember things.
But those are side effects ... what is the driver? I am almost there with Grace, who says she writes because she can't help herself. I know I missed blogging when I abandoned it for a month or so, and I continually "write" in my head. I almost always simultaneously observe the things I experience.
One of Mary's commenters said, "I write to tell stories that I believe must be told." That reminds me of a longtime friend who has asked me to write my memoirs since we graduated from high school one hundred and twenty-six years ago. To his query, I usually replied with another author's quote. The Russian writer Marina Tsvetaeva said: "You should only write the books whose non-existence you grieve." ("Man soll nur die Bücher schreiben, an deren Nichtvorhandensein man leidet", said the German postcard I had.)
I don't believe I have stories that *must* be told. Stories that could be told, yes. Stories I would like to tell, sure. *The* story, no, not that either. (Which is why I hold that I am not a "Writer", the one with the Capital Double You.) I'll have to quote this bit again that I lifted off Steve's OnePotMeal in October 2003, and that illustrates my stance best:
'Oh, I *have* to write,' M. says. 'If I don't write every day I feel withered.'
'Really?' I ask. 'You must get a lot done.'
'I have, oh, six novels in my computer, and tons of stories. I can't help it. It's like a calling.'
'I never felt like writing was a vocation. Maybe that's why it takes me months to finish a story.'
'You don't? Don't you just feel like you need to write every day, all the time?'
'Not really. No. I mean, I think about stories every day, and about words and ideas... maybe that's a vocation, but the writing? That's the worst part, isn't it?'
'No! That's the best part! Writing's who I am. Isn't that what it means to be a writer, that you have to do it all the time?'
Me? I write, but I am not a writer.
I'm closer to being a writer now, but the Writer eludes me (which is fine). Some days it's like an itch I want to scratch very badly. Other days it's like OnePotMeal says: I think about stories and words and ideas all the time, because my brain is all words. But they don't all urge themselves out of my head and onto paper. Most of them are contentedly entrenched within the confines of my skull, and no trepanning is needed.
But, like Michael Ende says in the Neverending Story, that's another story and shall be told another time. As is the other story about the itch I cannot seem to leave alone.