My friends, six months ago I started my blog series, StudyHabits.net and it’s been an exercise in creativity. In a rare departure from my enterprising nature, I did not do it to make money, but simply because I could not get away from the compulsion that I wanted to write. I needed to write.
Earlier in the year I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (read these books). Every possible excuse to not write went through my head, but I could not escape the idea that I needed to write, if for no other reason than my sanity.
For a comprehensive list of fears about writing, please read Big Magic — or listen to Ms. Gilbert narrate her audio book, truly fabulous. For stepping beyond the bounds of safety and risking shame, read Ms. Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, a remarkable read.
Before launching, I set a few ground rules.
- The first rule, it has to be fun and once fun stops, I stop. I do not write for a living, so there is no word count minimum/maximum, no strict number of posts I need to make per week, nor topics that must be covered.
- The second rule, my writing should be accessible to anyone interested in reading it. In Divinity school, and always an admirer of words, I put five adjectives where one sufficed. The inimitable, ever restrained, has-red-pen-will-travel, Dr. Ellen Davis did not give up on me. She did, however, blow through a box of red grading pens marking out my excesses during the three semesters I apprenticed her craft.
- Final rule, I have to get my homework done first.
Many of you wrote me about starting a blog or writing your own story. I believe you should. No one has your story, just like no one has mine. When it comes to the desire to write, no one says it better than Ms. Margaret Atwood.
I took the passage below from her book, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. Do not be put off by the length, I promise you will enjoy the read.
Here then is the list:
To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I know I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we are alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct (not often found after the early twentieth century, or not in that form). To please myself. To express myself. To express myself beautifully. To create a perfect work of art. To reward the virtuous and punish the guilty; or – the Marquis de Sade defense, used by ironists – vice versa. To hold a mirror up to Nature. To hold a mirror up to the reader. To paint a portrait of society and its ills. To express the unexpressed life of the masses. To name the hitherto unnamed. To defend the human spirit, and human integrity and honor. To thumb my nose at Death. To make money so my children could have shoes. To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. To show the bastards. Because to create is human. Because to create is Godlike. Because I hate the idea of having a job. To say a new word. To make a new thing. To create a national consciousness, or a national conscience. To justify my failures in school. To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be “a writer” unless I actually did some writing. To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. To attract the love of a beautiful woman. The attract the love of any woman at all. To attract the love of a beautiful man. To rectify the imperfections of my miserable childhood. To thwart my parents. To spin a fascinating tale. To amuse and please the reader. To amuse and please myself. To pass the time, even through it would have passed anyway. Graphomania. Compulsive logorrhea. Because I was driven to it by some force outside my control. Because I was possessed. Because an angel dictated to me. Because I fell into the embrace of the Muse. Because I got pregnant by the Muse and need to give birth to a book (and interesting piece of cross-dressing indulged in by male writers of the seventeenth century). Because I had books instead of children (several twentieth century women). To serve Art. To serve the Collective Unconscious. To serve History. To justify the ways of God toward man. To act out antisocial behavior for which I would have been punished in real life. To master a craft so I could generate texts (a recent entry). To subvert the establishment. To demonstrate that whatever is, is right. To experiment with new forms of perception. To create a recreational boudoir so the reader could go into it and have fun (translated from a Czech newspaper). Because the story took hold of me and wouldn’t let go (the Ancient Mariner defense). To search for understanding of the reader and myself. To cope with my depression. For my children. To make a name that would survive death. To defend a minority group or oppressed class. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To expose appalling wrongs or atrocities. To record the times through which I have lived. To bear witness to horrifying events that I have survived. To speak for the dead. To celebrate life in all its complexity. To praise the universe. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.
If any of these reasons spoke to you, my friends, start writing.