Why write? Because I must.
|Why Write? Why Breathe?
By Marilyn Mackenzie
"Any healthy man can go without food for two days -- but not without poetry." Charles Baudelaire
Asking why I write is like asking why I breathe. I just always have. Of course, that’s not exactly true. I wasn’t born knowing how to write.
I do remember dictating my first letter. I was four when my brother was born. I stayed with my aunt when Mom went to the hospital, and I dictated a letter to her. I also sent a page on which I had scribbled blue over the entire page. To me it was blue construction paper.
My writing life began very early. A cherry tree that none of the other kids could climb graced my backyard. I shimmied up that tree trunk and grabbed the protruding limb. I’d swing my legs up and climb into the tree. I had to make sure my writing pad, sketch pad and pencil made it too. That was quite a feat, I guess. Once situated, I began writing and drawing and snacking on the sweet, dark cherries. Thus began my life as a writer.
I wrote fiction and poetry, and kept a journal. I don’t have any of my fiction or journal writings. Unfortunately, I do have an example of my childhood poetry. My mother recently sent some poems to me that I’d written about my mom, dad, brother and sister. I knew nothing about the construction of a poem, about rhyme or meter. My poems all rhymed, and with my limited child’s vocabulary, they were very sing-songy. It probably didn’t help that one of the few poets I read was a master of sing-song rhyme himself – Edgar Guest.
In junior high my interests changed. Boys and music seemed more important than writing. I did keep a diary, though, so my life could have been chronicled, had I kept those secret writings.
My family moved from the suburbs to the city at the beginning of high school, so the friends I’d grown up with lived across town. I was shy and retreated into my writing life again. My old school boasted that 85% of the high school graduates would go to college, so it was assumed that I’d follow that course. At my new school, only 15% would attend college, so I was considered a bookworm.
By the end of eleventh grade, I’d accumulated enough credits to graduate. I could have skipped my senior year all together. But who wants to miss out on proms and graduation ceremonies? I opted for attending school half-days in my senior year and chose, besides my required senior English, a poetry class.
In high school and in college, I wrote strictly poetry – about war, discrimination and many of the world’s happenings. I wrote free style poetry, and was, perhaps, influenced by the folk singers of the time. My poems were published in obscure magazines; my pay was between $3 and $5 or I received copies of the magazines for my works of heart.
I married my childhood sweetheart, and packed away my writings for the life of a wife, with thoughts of motherhood as my future. I soon retrieved my writing pads, though. The man I married verbally attacked me, the attacks getting angrier as months passed and no child was conceived. He told me daily that I was fat, dumb and ugly. I knew it wasn’t so. I wore a size 8 or 10, I knew my IQ scores, and ugly? Other men were attracted to me, so I suppose that was false as well.
He fished and hunted each weekend, and I wrote stories and poems while he was gone. Writing truly became a retreat from the real world. I wrote fiction stories and poems about leaving that jerk, using words like, "I left you tonight...in my mind." A few of my stories and poems were published – again in obscure magazines. Mostly, I received enough rejection slips to paper an entire room. That just fueled my spouse’s reaction to me even more. He thought I was stupid to keep writing when the editors kept rejecting my writings. But I trudged on.
After putting up with verbal abuse, I left when the abuse turned physical. Soon, I was living on my own. While I didn’t journalize much nor write poetry, I did make sure I used my writing skills at work. At each job, I was the company newsletter editor.
I married again five years later, and soon afterwards had a son. For a while, I was a regional sales director for a home party plan company. I wrote training materials and newsletters. It wasn’t the same as keeping a personal journal, but the newsletters do show how my skills improved and my style changed.
My son was home schooled from 4th through 12th grade, and we were a part of an umbrella school, so he’d have contact with other home educated kids. I graded multiple choice or true and false tests, but I opted to have them grade his writings. I thought I might be too critical or not critical enough of his writings. He always got excellent grades, though. In fact, he was the only child to ever receive 100% on his book reports. The school administrator graded them, and he admitted to anxiously awaiting Derek’s reports each week. I suppose my son either inherited a gift for writing, or this mom did adequately at teaching him to write, or both.
Like many home school families, we started a business from home to help with expenses and to teach our son about business. We developed a newsletter about being frugal, writing most of the articles. My son created a kid’s page.
Many women select abusive spouses more than once, as I did. When our son hit puberty, his dad got physically abusive to him, and my son and I left.
Writing had been a way of expressing hurts in the past; it was again. I didn’t write much, though, until my son was 16. He contracted mononucleosis, then developed depression, and his doctors insisted I stay home with him. While my son slept all day, I had time on my hands. God reminded me how much I had enjoyed writing, and I embarked, this time, on daily writing excursions.
I found a writer’s site that I loved. When it closed, I found other writer’s sites. Finally last year, I stumbled upon Writing.Com. While writing there is now a frequent adventure, I’ve also written for web sites, e-zines and magazines. Today, I write both for pleasure and for pay.
Because God reminded me how much I once enjoyed writing, and because Jesus has been a part of my life for so long, my stories and poems are written to glorify Him.
Why do I write? For the same reason I breathe, I suppose. Because I always have. Writing has been a part of my life since childhood. Today, it’s a habit, a passion, a part of my daily life.
I awaken each morning before the sun rises. I sit on my porch, watching the unique canvas sky. The birds sing and the squirrels romp as I begin my day reading God’s word and praying. Then, I write and breathe in the early morning air.
"The expert at anything was once a beginner." Author Unknown
"What I like in a good author is not what he says but what he whispers." Logan Pearsall Smith
"There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write." William Makepeace Thackeray