Think Twice Before You Think

Why do you write? Even if you’re not what you’d consider “a writer,” what pushes you to put pen to paper (how quaint) or tap, tap, tap on the keyboard to get some thought or feeling into a printed word? And for those who do consider themselves writers, what is the impetus? Is it the same nudge that has painters paint paintings, sculptors sculpt sculptures or composers compose music?

I write, when I write fiction, to challenge myself to create something. I love playing with words, images, nuances of language, and sometimes being witty or funny. I love telling a good story, and I’m just downright bad at telling a story verbally. When I tell a joke I usually either forget the punchline or what leads up to it. But when I write, I get to think without stuttering too much; I can go back and fix it without anyone knowing I’m kind of an idiot on my feet. I am not particularly graceful when extemporaneous.

But what I find is that when I do write I can be kind of formal and stuffy. I over think stuff. It’s why I like blogging. I can just riff on something and not worry about every word and image and effing comma. Although I like to think I’m pretty good with my commas.

So, why do you write? Are you “a writer?” Can you compose music? How are you with commas?

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5 responses to “Think Twice Before You Think

  1. I OFTEN WRITE AND REJECT MY OWN WORK. Sometimes I have a piece of work and it stumbles and falls and I don’t rescue it . Upon re-reading I will do some surgery and the patient recovers from the stumble and gets up and gallops away. So very easy when seen with a fresh eye. There are famous artists who have added a stroke or two to a finished piece to compulsively correct a work of art. WOW does that mean a work is nevr really completed but an ongoing alive thing that takes on a life of it’s own and mutates in motion???

  2. This is a huge question. I write for different reasons at different times.

    Sometimes it’s because I need to figure something out — I find that I don’t think well when I just think or talk. Putting words on a page (or a screen) helps me get out of my way so my thoughts can flow.

    Sometimes it’s because I need to communicate something — tell a secret, explain myself, announce a triumph, share a grief. I get tongue-tied when I try to speak. But I am eloquent in print.

    Sometimes it’s because I have sounds in my head and I want to play with them, shape them into sentences, see where they’ll go.

    Sometimes it’s because I want to tell myself a story. When I was little I made up stories inside my head, or with my doll house or my enormous collection of miniature figures. Writing stories is a socially acceptable way to play this same game as an adult.

    And sometimes I just write for the sheer joy of feeling my fingers trip over the keyboard and watching the letters march across the screen.

    Usually, I guess, it’s all of the above, in different proportions.

  3. Pamela

    Writing poetry definitely has something to do with my social anxieties and my fear of not being enough, that I’m not smart enough, or I haven’t read enough to comment in a political conversation, that I’m not sexy enough, I’m not enough as a mother, or I’m not enough as woman. As a way of proving myself, I take pen to paper and can craft the best thought. Certainly, I think that writing is a much slower process than conversation, and I am very big on editing. I will edit a poem more than twenty versions in most cases before I publish it. Additionally, as a poet, I suspect I do not think as quickly as others. My thought process is more lengthy. It goes through a series of connections, images, visual stimuli before I can begin to write.

    In my thirties, I noticed that I have friends who are very articulate, one is a Law professor the other an English professor. They talked very fast. They argued politics and current events out loud. They read everything and remembered it. I recall my frustration that my brain just doesn’t move as quickly as either of theirs. We were friends for five years before I could spar or actually contribute a comment in a conversation or rhetorical argument. Partly, I think it’s because I was socialized to cook and clean, not to think or speak or write.

    Lastly I think, particularly as a poet, that I am always obsessed with an image and an emotion, and I have these absolutely terrible needs to connect the two, to say something about the world around me. I’m not an essayist or memoir author. It’s unlikely that I will write a short story. For me, it’s poetry all the way, because that’s where the big ideas reside. Unfortunately, nothing in our society really supports a female poet. Nobody ever said to me, “Yes. Keep writing poetry. It will really take you far in life.” So, I am always thrilled to meet other poets, especially women who write poetry.

    • Oh Pam, I just MUST get to the next reading you do. I was very sad to miss the 911 one. Thank you for commenting. I’m a fiction writer myself, but I started with poetry for the first 35 years!

  4. Rhonda

    I think your second paragraph sums it up perfectly for plenty of us. I started writing as a kid because I was painfully shy. By college I’d earned the nickname “quietfire” from a professor because I was mild-mannered in speech but fierce with a keyboard. Even today, my boss has been known to see me at my desk at the paper and say, “Look out, the bitch is on the machine.” And yes, he gets a pass because he’s an old man.