Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why do I write?

Been reading Curious Pursuits by Margaret Atwood, a collection of, as she puts it, Occasional Writing - that is, writing for occasions. She's one of my all time favourite writers, has been since I read The Handmaid's Tale when I was 14 or 15. I love her way with words, though it makes me feel hopelessly inadequate as a writer myself, sometimes. Curious Pursuits gave me some hope in this regard though. Not because her way with words is anything less than usual, but because I get more of a sense of the person behind the author.


In Curious Pursuits she addresses at one stage, the question "Why do you write?" It is one of the hardest for a writer to answer. W. Somerset Maugham said, "We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to". It is probably the best answer to the question. Nevertheless, there are as many different answers as there are writers. I feel compelled to think about it, and try to answer it, myself.

Why do I write?

I write because if I didn't, the ideas in my head might find a less benevolent way to manifest themselves. Such as schizophrenia.

That may sound flippant, but it isn't meant like that. Trust me, I've seen mental illness up close. Creativity and madness are often described as two sides of the same coin, or divided by only a narrow line, and both analogies seem quite fitting. I write because there are stories inside my head that have to get out, somehow. There always have been. I've been making up stories since I was a small child. I had many imaginary friends, and even when I was really young, I sort of knew they were imaginary - that they didn't exist anywhere but inside my head.

By putting them down on paper (or screen), they end up existing in the heads of other people as well.

I write, therefore, to share my madness with the rest of the world.

That's a nice thought for the day, isn't it?


Anita Davison said...

See, we writers do think the same - but I think 'madness' is the wrong term, perhaps our synapses merely spark differently. I quite like thinking on a different level to my contemporaries - possibly in search of that perfect sentence - why not? Life would be so dull if we were all the same.

Joleen said...

I agree, certainly, that creative thinking is probably just a matter of different brain functioning - not necessarily better, or worse. I don't mind 'madness' as a word though. I suppose I want to reclaim it. After all, who chooses which behaviours are deviant and which are normal? Even what the professionals class as mental illness has changed significantly over the past century.