Guest Blogger Patti Trimble asks, and answers, “Who cares if I write?”
Sometimes I ask myself, “Who cares if I write, who basically gives a damn anyway?” Then I remember this is a real question that should be asked with a radical change of voice. Who DOES care if I write? Exactly who am I writing for?
Writing is a mode of conversation: If I don’t know who I’m talking to, it hardly makes sense to speak.
Once, on a beach, not in this country, I watched twenty men pull in a surf net. At least that’s what I thought they were doing. For several hours I watched them pull—knee-deep in surf, hauling in two fat ropes that disappeared into the sea. As they inched backwards up the slope, one man jumped up; then some young people ran down to help pull. The town was into it because it was good work, hauling in sustenance from the depths.
I wouldn’t, couldn’t, write if I didn’t have someone—the whole town, or a few friends—helping me pull in stories and poems. I need my audience and I appreciate them. I ask strangers if they care about my topic—and why. I ask editors. I ask my mom. When I write, I address my audience. If I feel their enthusiasm, I want to write generous explanations, a funny line, a personal insight.
I also need to be honest about audience. If I was writing for the Nobel Committee, I’d have arranged my education, marriage, work schedule, and publicity machine accordingly. When I’m writing a love letter, I lower my voice . . .
Try it, try asking, “Who the hell cares if I write?” with curiosity and a sense of adventure. Make a list. Test a story on a friend. Write for someone who needs a laugh. Has your daughter heard about your 1980s hairdo? Does the city need your opinion on the asphalt plant? When your heart jumps at the flying geese, who’s jumping up to help pull out a poem? Is it your writer friends, next week’s slam audience, Mary Oliver, or your dad?
I’m just saying that writing is a collaborative process, and assembling your team makes things easier.
Patti Trimble is a freelance writer and widely-published poet. She often performs her lyric poems with music, and will have a new CD out in 2014. Patti teaches writing for Arcadia University in Sicily and also in the Bay Area, including an inspiring “mini-memoir” class that begins Jan 21 at Sonoma State Osher Program, and two spring workshops through Pt. Reyes Field Seminars.