“Life often has a way of making people feel small and unimportant. But if you find a way to express yourself through writing, to put your ideas and stories on paper, you’ll feel more consequential. No one should pass through time without writing their thoughts and experiences down for others to learn from. Even if only one person, a family member, reads something you wrote long after you’re gone, you live on. So writing gives you power. Writing gives you immortality.” — Antwone Fisher, Screenwriter and author
Note from Marlene:
I write to get out of my head and onto paper. Writing, with a pen or pencil, is an extension of my arm. When I picture my arm, it’s elongated by the pen, which in my mind, is always there. Computer typing — same thing — the keyboard is an extension of me. Writing is as natural and as much a part of me as breathing. I would rather write than do almost anything else. I write because I get to see a side of myself that isn’t always present. My daily concerns revolve around household chores, gardening, helping my husband run his consulting business and whatever else needs to be done. My efficient me bustles about cleaning and scrubbing and waiting until I have a moment or two to write. And those moments are glorious. Because I’m writing for me. Not for any monetary gain. Not for notoriety. I don’t need to be noticed to enjoy writing.
I write because I not only can, I have to.
Why do you write?
I write to learn who I am. It’s strange, I know, but I don’t really know who I am, not really. The thoughts that are revealed to me in my writing are inaccessible to my conscious never-ending self evaluation.
I write to discover that which my ego blinds. It is not very pretty, and never aggrandizing, but somehow the truth (because it is the truth, not the illusion fabricated to protect me), the truth releases me from the prison of my preconceptions.
I write to escape the limited world of my biases into the freedom of my imagination.
I write, therefor I am!
mcullen Post author
I always enjoy your writing, James, and this piece is intriguing and thought-provoking. I agree about what writing can do . . . reveal that which isn’t easy to see. I love “I write to escape the limited world of my biases into the freedom of my imagination.” Keep writing!
Whenever I write a story, or listen to one being read, I can forget everything of my life and live over the scenes. This ability first revealed itself, I recall, when in the company of my granddad. I can recall many instances of sitting at his feet and listening to him read, but I distinctly recall one time: He was reading a letter from a long ago pal, he told me, shipwrecked off the Cape of Good Hope. As granddad read the letter so his voice rose and fell with each wave that flooded over the bow, not just that, but the lifting of his hands to protect himself as the mast came crashing to the deck, ‘The mast has gone!’ he yelled, ‘Crash it goes!’ thinking they would all perish right at that moment. It was gripping stuff and I sat at his feet utterly carried away. My granddad was a Scot who, for the better part of his life studied the law. Had he not been an attorney, he would certainly have been an adventurer.
Granddad’s heart was not in his profession at the end; he wanted to write romantic novels; or roam over his beloved heather-covered hills of Selkirkshire, wander in the glorious free open air with his dogs, and work his few sheep. In the end he was an unhappy individual; at his worst when visited by relatives, his sniveling repugnance pouring out in a thinly veiled displeasure, a barren wilderness of self-acknowledgement. When asked about his health, his response was never more than a mumble, its meaning lost in a painful scene of intrusion. He could feel himself walking out of the house, preferring the company of dirty dogs, but he was bound to his chair even though he wriggled, wanting to engage his legs, feeling himself bolt. I never really knew when it was that the appalling ignominy of forms and conveyances left him too little time to turn his attention to the kind of writing he loved. He was eighty-four years old when he retired, and could then write to his heart’s content.
His two dogs, buried beneath a yew tree at the foot of the garden, continue to live on in his stories. Ivan, a Scottish terrier, named after one of his hero’s, ‘Ivanhoe’, and Shack, a Border collie, who he named in honor of ‘Shackleton’. The dogs lived long and colorful lives among the scattered castle ruins and the beautiful, sometimes satanic countryside. Granddad maintained he had heard the cries of warriors fallen at Flodden Field and Bannockburn when once lost in the hills during a blizzard, and were it not for his two dogs keeping him warm, he told me, he would surely have perished among those warrior cries. But Granddad was a cripple and had been since childhood. They were just stories, his romance, his adventures were so often sought by fellow drinkers in the locality, more kindly thought of as art.
My mum told me on numerous occasions that I had been infected by Granddad’s ‘tales’. This is quite true, which is why I like to write my lies down and pass them on in the hope you’ll see what I saw. To lie in such a way is almost heavenly, to romance, to lie, it is a gift, and used in the right context can bring much joy. Thinking up lies is not so difficult, you just need to believe what you write…today I wrote:
‘Whenever I hear a story, or listen to one being read, I can forget everything of my life and live over the scenes.’
mcullen Post author
Oh, I love this one, Kelly. You have painted such a vivid picture of Granddad, it’s as if he is in the next room, or at the local pub. . . I can hear his voice as he tells his stories. I inhale your stories like a child gobbles up candy. I feel like I’m a better person, and certainly a better writer, when I read your writing. You help elevate me to new heights of inspired writing. I smiled such a satisfying smile when I read, “This is quite true, which is why I like to write my lies down and pass them on in the hope you’ll see what I saw.”
Look, here’s the deal, the damn question has kept me awake most of the night.
I write words, sometimes wondering if anyone will read them. When writing everything kind of seems kind of unreal. Take the conversation I had with Virginia Woolf over breakfast. She was not at all who I expected, intensely curious, and not kind, chastising my poorly written work, yet I felt important at being the object of her attention. Then she was gone, and the dogs were barking for a walk along the shore. I am my own secret of pretensions and amusements. Virginia, for all her brilliance, failed to see mine. A year ago that same idle fantasy would have driven me into a murderous rage but with understanding and patience I learned something myself. Virginia might be incredibly sensitive, ultrasensitive perhaps, but she is not warm. I was filed away as ‘irrelevant’ before she drank her tea and left. You haven’t experienced the world, she said, pulling the door closed. “Wait!” I begged, pleading to know what she meant. She didn’t wait.
Here’s the thing, Virginia, I wanted to say: Did you ever weep so hard that the snot ran from your nose and mixed with tears before it seeped passed your lips? Did your heart ever break in such a way that every day after it survives within a spindly thicket? Did you ever want to ride a wild wind to somewhere just to be alone with the emptiness of a life that would never recover its beauty? Did you? Did you ever want to go to that place where the whistlings of death seem more comfortable than the music of life? Did you ever feel so detached and afraid that just the simple act of bringing back a memory brought to life the quivering of a ghost? I’m asking you, Virginia. Did you? Did you ever feel that you wanted to grab the next person by the throat that smiled reassuringly and told you time heals? Well, did you? Did you ever have a child come to you and make you understand that there is no pain greater than a child’s without a mother?
I would have asked her these questions, but she didn’t stay. When my wife entered, holding a mug of tea, she asked: “Darling, you’re mumbling. I can hear you in the kitchen.”
“Bah, I was yelling at Virginia Woolf. I swear, I don’t think she knows what it is to be tormented!”
My mind is in torment, the creativity, and the knowledge that we live in the universe inside a beautiful aquarium that itself falls steadily through time. Our heartbreak is so small in the eons of time. What we, each of us, gives to history cannot be judged by its value, but by the love we give back. I am now working toward one last challenge, to play, to amuse, to adore, to be lost in the writer’s reality. This is a frightening journey, you need to hold me tightly and safely in your heart if I’m to come back from where I travel.
mcullen Post author
Fabulous intensity and energy in this piece, Kelly. Builds to a crescendo and slides into a calmness when the wife enters with a mug of tea. A mug . . . not a cup . . .sturdy, hand-warming, heart-soothing. . . like this piece.
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