An essay I did for class on 'Why I write'
|There’s Shakespeare and me
A lecturer of mine not that long ago stated: “William Shakespeare is dead.” Well of course he’s dead. He died in 1616 over 400 years ago. Why would my lecturer decide to state this fact in 2011 in a class of writers? All of whom, I would assume; are smart enough to have already discovered this fact on their own.
I believe he said this to point out a fact that whilst he is, in fact ‘dead’. His writing lives on. Why am I writing about William Shakespeare you ask? It is simple. William Shakespeare is far more interesting than me and far better known. Okay, so whilst that is true, the real reason is that Sonnet 17, by William Shakespeare, perfectly outlines the reason: Why I write.
‘Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers yellow'd with their age
Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.’
William Shakespeare – Sonnet 17
At my core, I am a romantic, just as William Shakespeare once was. More than that though; just like William Shakespeare, I like to believe that well after what I describe in my writing has faded to dust; long after the skin of my lovers have turned from taut to saggy, brown hair to grey and the world has changed in ways we can only imagine; that my writing will live on to suggest what had been. Unlike William Shakespeare I find that my ego is much smaller and my expectations are much more limited but I find that I too, like him, see myself hoping that once my writing has faded to yellow, or the file type has become obsolete and out of date, that maybe someone somewhere will take the time to read what I have written and imagine the possibilities of my world, of my time and of my life. Maybe then, just maybe, my words will live on.
There’s t h e m and me
There are a lot of writers out there. There are fast writers and slow writers and fan-fiction writers and real estate writers. When I asked myself why do I write? Curiosity asked, why do THEY write? So I asked. It seems that every writer wants to tell every other writer ‘Why they write.’ From Stephen King and Joan Didion to writing.com’s own ‘big mike’ and ‘Hannah’ everyone has had a bit of the ‘Why I write’ action and whilst George Orwell says there are 4 motives why everyone writes . A lot of other writers disagree.
Writing doesn’t seem to come from anyone place and people don’t seem to do it for any one reason. Moses wrote because of divine inspiration, Stephanie Meyer wrote her ‘dream’ (literally). J. K. Rowling wrote because she was so excited by her story she just had to write it down, whilst J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit because he wanted to take a crack at writing a long, yet interesting story.
Jane Austen seems to have written Pride and Prejudice for one of George Orwell’s top 4; political purpose. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, you would assume, was written for historical reasons, another top 4. Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote Green Eggs and Ham for a very vague perception of aesthetic enthusiasm, which may, or may not have won him a bet. Whilst William Shakespeare wrote to be remembered, or as George Orwell put it: Sheer Egoism.
There are as many different reasons for writing as there are writers. Whilst broad categories seem to encase a wide range of these reasons, some still fly free from their stereotypical casing. I myself fit into George Orwell’s ‘motive’ box of Sheer Egoism. I could also fit myself into every other box he placed out. Whilst reading, our motives aren’t often clear to the reader, our inspiration is what we seem to put forth most of all. Stephen King’s high school horror with Carrie, Dr Seuss’ idea of a Cat in the Hat and Stephen Donaldson’s epic tale of a man with leprosy. We write because of our own motives but it is our inspiration that truly matters when others tune into the world we have created.
There’s Art and Me
The sun light fades on the hills, the lack of light turning the far sky purple with the promise of night. Oranges blended with yellows and blues, an intricate web of design pasted on the horizon ahead. Birds fly gracefully across the far reaching landscape diving and rising with each gust of the icy July breeze.
The difference between art and writing is... nothing. Writing is an art form on its own. If it wasn’t then we would all use ‘brown’ instead of ‘maple’, ‘entry’ instead of ‘foyer’ and ‘sunset’ instead of ‘the sun fell beyond the horizon, and it was night.’ The Oxford Dictionary defines art as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’ . Whilst it does admit it’s typically a visual medium, writing can also be appreciated for its beauty and is especially renowned for its ability to convey emotional power.
The beauty in words is one of the things I find most appealing about writing. The written word is used all day every day in postcards and magazines, newspapers and business deals. Yet the difference between writing a shopping list and writing a poem, writing a business proposal and writing a screen play, is the difference between a photo of a can of soup and a Van Gough. No offence to Andy Warhol intended.
The beauty in words comes not only from the words themselves, but the pronunciation, the ups and downs of the letters and the arrangement of different words to create sentences that can mean so much when really they are just a collection of singular irrelevant data that the mind translates into complicated pictures and emotions from one person to the next. This series of events between the writing and the reading, the way that you can transfer thoughts, feelings, emotions, views and opinions by placing non-sequential drivel on a blank canvas is amazing in its self. The fact that all this can span generations, eras, lifetimes makes this a magical task with the author of a wizard of his own kind, his own Merlin. If this isn’t art? What is it?
There’s READING and Me
‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Simple as that.’
Stephen King, On Writing
I read a lot. I don’t read any thing in particular. Currently I’m into romance novels; Sophie Kinsella and Nora Roberts. I own over 500 books and I’ve borrowed 100’s more from local and school libraries over the years. I like to read. I believe if you want to write. You must have first read. Much like crawling before you walk, walking before you run. The basic human steps we take on the road to learning.
I don’t mean read ‘Sugglepot and Cuddlepie’ and think you can write children’s stories the world over will love. I mean read everything you can get your hands on and pay attention to the writing. I’ve found you should always read things at least twice, once for the story and at least one more time to find the little titbits the authors undoubtedly placed strategically within his or her novel. Notice who the narrator is, notice the tense, the locations and the characters. There is always more to a book than first meets the eye, don’t imagine because you’ve read every word on every page that you know every detail. Once you start writing something of your own you’ll realize that every sentence holds more than just words. Like magic, 5 words can hold 2 or 3 ideas. 2 paragraphs can hold a lifetime and you’re on your way to a century.
Reading is like taking a holiday. You take yourself and you put you somewhere else. Whether you’re taking a part in the teenage world of ‘The Saddle Club’ or trudging through the epic tale that is ‘The Iliad’ the real you takes a back seat as the author takes you on a journey. If you don’t know what it’s like to be taken on a journey through the pages of a book, then you certainly can’t take someone on one. Nor have you read “The Pagemaster” obviously.
The point I am making here is I may be a good writer, a poor writer and award winning, multi-millionaire writer, but I would be nothing without what ever book, what ever article or scripture I read that started me along the yellow brick road of writing. Every piece of writing that is read means something to someone, whether that is the author or the reader.
There’s Trust and Me
When I write something I know there is a bit of ‘me’ in it. When I show it so someone else I know that they will see parts of me that they may not have seen before. Parts of ‘me’ that I may not want them to see, so when I hand over a piece of work to my workshop group, to my mum, to a friend, I have to trust them with ‘me’. The ‘me’ in the writing and the ‘me’ that may be hurt when they suggest changes to the piece of writing I spent time creating. Writing is about creating something beautiful and wanting to have it immortalized. When you hand something over to someone else, when you ask them what they think, you trust them, and their opinions. You aren’t necessarily going to change the things they suggest, you aren’t necessarily going to believe their praise, but you trust them not to turn around and say ‘This is the worst piece of drivel I’ve ever read? You spent the last 2 years of your life writing this??’
When I write, especially poems, a lot of ‘me’ is written into the lines. My emotions are shown and I’ve written it in such a way that I think other people may enjoy, praise or respect. When I show it to people I trust that they won’t say “Oh I’m so sorry for your break-up.” or “I’m so happy you’re in love.” I trust that they will read the words, read the emotions and judge the piece based on that. Most people do not want to be judged individually. We do not want to be judged as a person, we might want our work, our designs, writing or art to be praised or criticised but not ourselves and with writing we leave a lot of ourselves exposed.
Trust in writing is important. If you don’t trust the reader your writing will be guarded and insecure. The reader will feel the hesitance in your writing, they may not understand what they are feeling but when you write you transfer so much of yourself to the page that if you feel scared, and your writing will suffer.
The writing is a part of you.
There’s Writing and Me
Why do I write?
I’ve thrown around a lot of names in here, I’ve told you why others write and things you should know when you’re writing. I’ve talked about influences and reasoning, description and impression and while I did say I write for egotism. Is that the only reason I write?? No!
I write because I have something to say, something that I want people to hear, to understand and to appreciate. Writing is about the story; it’s about the rhythm of the words, the words themselves and about the art that they create. But most importantly, writing is about the emotions, the heart and soul of the characters and of the author and the reader.
It’s about the magic.