Why I Write in a Fucked Up World…
by J.M. Rinker
My partner and I were talking about our favorite books the other day and he has a well-rounded list while mine resembles that of a twelve year old: Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, Secret Garden, Bridge to Terabithia, and Tuck Everlasting. I actually do read grown-up books as well, but they never stay with me the same way as those titles, perhaps because childhood is much more impressionable.
But there’s something that links these books together which is the real reason they impressed themselves upon me and remain close to my heart. I read to understand. To know that I wasn’t the only one. To know it was possible to survive. As a child, I clung to those stories because by the end the kids were okay.
I write for the same exact reasons. It’s as though I don’t know anything until I’ve written it, whether it be a journal entry, a blog post, or a new novel. I can’t figure things out without writing about them. I feel alone more often than not, but when I am writing, I know exactly where I belong and which part I play. Illogical things suddenly make sense. I script scenes I will never experience so that I can experience them. So that I know, by the end, I will be okay.
So why is telling stories important in a screwed up world that we will never understand? Why should we bother?
Because when we write from that most confused, grievous, joyous, personal place, we create works of art that can significantly enrich people’s lives. These authors did exactly that for me.
EB White wrote Charlotte’s Web as he struggled with reconciling his love for animals with the way livestock meets its end. This endearing cast is unforgettable.
Louisa May Alcott was asked to write Little Women, but the characters are based on her life and the death of her own sister is mirrored in the pages. Beth becomes beloved to us all.
Frances Hodgson Burnett began The Secret Garden after she lost her son and said her characters “came to her” rather than the other way around. These are some of the richest characters ever drawn.
Katherine Patterson wrote Bridge to Terabithia after the death of her son’s friend. A poignant story that reminds us to hold close our loved ones.
Natalie Babbit wrote Tuck Everlasting because her daughter showed a fear of death that Babbit didn’t want her to carry throughout her life. Because that fear will prevent you from living.