Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poets & Writer's Magazine

     I read an essay in the Mar/April issue of Poet's & Writer's Magazine in the "Why We Write" section that described the loss of a relative. In the essay, author Lise Saffran chronicles the declining health of her grandmother and how Saffran visited her regularly, taking along her laptop to continue working during these visits. The article is very moving, and I recommend anyone who gets a chance should read it.
     At the end of the article there was a little footnote suggesting that this is an open-submission column. The intent is to write about why you continue to write " despite rejection, lack of recognition, or other challenges." Of course I wondered, at that point, why do I write? Could I get past the abstracts ( a common answer is "because I have too") and actually define what drives me to write?
      I immediately thought of a time a few years ago when I was on vacation with my family. My parents had followed us to Fredericksburg, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. We were staying in a hotel that had a large open atrium with an indoor pool. Every morning the hotel served hot breakfast, and I would get up before everyone else and go down to the atrium to write. One morning my father came down and joined me. He asked what I was writing, and I muttered my way through a generic explanation and closed the notebook. I told him that I was trying to write so well that if it was raining in my story, that the reader would here the rain hitting the roof and feel the temperature drop as the moisture filled the air. He nodded, and said that would be good.
     Later that year I began reading Hemingway, starting with "A Moveable Feast". I was surprised to see that Hemingway himself had stated the same thing: he wanted to write so well that what he had written became real to the person who read it, and as such, became part of their memories as if it had really happened to them.
     Of course everyone who writes should want to write well, but is that the defining reason why I write? I've often declared that what I am trying to do with a story is write something that is true to anyone who reads it. I want to capture the texture of life and emotion into a story so completely that it's better than watching a movie. But this is just a goal of writing, not a motivation to do so. Perhaps, for now, I'm still stuck with "because I can't not write."   

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