Many of us who consider ourselves to be writers are driven to it with the same, desperate compulsion of an addict. We are compelled by curiosity: insatiable, grumbling, hungry, discontent curiosity. We are driven by a lust for knowledge and experience. We thrive on pursuing what is true, or beautiful, or meaningful, or some combination of these, or perhaps something else entirely, something that escapes trite categorization. We are not unusually happy folk. For those this describes, writing is about answering the wordless questions in our hearts. They are silent, deep questions. Questions that sleep beneath the sea like an undiscovered shipwreck. We are both arrogant and curious to a fault. We dare to peer at the mysteries of the world, and not only that, seek to capture them, to describe them, to hole them up in our hearts like little treasures. At the same time, to share them with others.
It is a strange irony to insist on using words. Words are translation by nature. Words are imprecise. It would be better to communicate with music or photography or painting or dance. With pain, surprise, wonder, humor. With leaves rustling as wind blows through a tree. With the tremble in a friend’s voice. With kissing while smiling. With the nutty, rich aroma of roasting coffee. With the sight of fresh, bright flowers on many headstones. With wiggling your toes in cool water during a hot, sweaty day. These are more true than words.
But, perhaps, words have more power than these, for they are the most versatile. With words, I can tell you of many people, places, emotions, smells, sounds, images. I can talk of the abstract and of the specific. I can use the real and the fictional and the fantastical. I can embellish, complicate, or simply as I choose. I can use metaphors. I can make the reader experience emotions with my words. If I am really very good, I can make my words sing, make them dance. And further, words can, on occasion, bring the realm of the unconscious into the realm of the conscious. They can begin to show you the layers that you were previously unaware or only dimly aware of. They can make you more awake.
Writing is, I think, a courageous act. This type of writing involves living with a great deal of ambiguity. It doesn’t bring resolution. It probably makes you more enemies than it does friends. But, for some, we feel it is its own reward. And so, full of fear and trembling, do I keep writing. Because I must.