Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you wonder why you write a blog?

Me too.

These past few days, I've been wondering why I blog. I have talked about words on this blog. I have talked about God. I have splashed virtual ink about forgiveness, joy, Italy, homesickness...

but the thought won't leave my mind: why do I do this?

and the thought trailing after it: does anyone read it?

Those two thoughts are mischievous - they're tying my writer's shoelaces together, that third grade trick, so that when I get up, I am soaring through the air ... and colliding with cold elementary school tile (or in this case, a sense of dejected writer's block). And the only way I can think of to undo the knots, and retie my shoes is to freewrite, go back to my basics, and let myself answer the first question.

Why do I do this?

Because I can't not do it, I can't not put something onto the paper and onto the screen and into your head. Because thoughts are thoughts, only for a  moment and they aren't eternal and they are worthy of the words that capture them like a butterfly net. I want the thoughts to flutter against their lettered cages and move off the page and make art. I want people to conjure up images when I talk, feel calmed and intrigued, imagine the world with me. I write because writing is a way to be alive. I write because my mother is a poet and my father is a professor and art and academics are mingling in my blood, because I want to become something. I write because I hear words all the time. I write because I can't draw the world like Monet and I can't dance the world and I can't act the world but I can write it. And no one teaches you how to trust yourself in these things, to trust that you are in fact going the right way or the wrong way but it'll turn out all right. I write on this blog because I want to create. I write on this blog in the vague and unfathomable hope that God does something with my words, and maybe just maybe there is a way to sing by writing.

My sorrows are commonplace and ordinary, my joys the kind that everyone knows: fresh-cut grass and birds perched on wires, laughing with friends til sides ache and fighting for an idea against the best arguments, making someone smile, listening close and hearing the heart, wondering. I write because even though they aren't the stuff of epics and novels they're the stuff of being alive. And what else is there, except this? That the world is ours to share, not own, and ours to treasure, not possess, and people are miraculous and I write to reach them?

I write because writing bends and challenges me, pushes me farther and makes me more faithful. I write because there is never enough time to give thanks and never enough time to be breathless and never enough time to teach and learn from the people of books and the places of books and the wonder of books. I write to remember. I write to pray. I write to grow.

And so while these answers are uncertain and confused - and maybe you ask them too - they have answered the knot of writer's block: if I must write, Rilke reminds me, I must write. And not worry about the rest. 

He says, dear readers and writers, the best words:

"You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose." (Letters to a Young Poet, Letter One)



  1. "I write because even though they aren't the stuff of epics and novels they're the stuff of being alive. And what else is there, except this? That the world is ours to share, not own, and ours to treasure, not possess, and people are miraculous and I write to reach them?" So so true. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. I read and appreciate, even when I don't find time to comment.

    And I may have needed that Rilke quote today more than anyone has ever needed anything, ever.

    Ok, slight exaggeration, but it met me just where I'm at and at the exact moment I needed to read those words. Thank you, sister-friend. :)

  3. whew.

    girl - this is good. and so, so needed for me right now. thank you.

  4. Yes yes yes. I write to feel it all, to worship to pray- to make it all make sense. Because even if it matters to only one, it matters.

  5. Thank you all, so much, for your words here and at your writing homes, and for your love, sent through computers and screens, and know that you're wonderful, all of you. I'm so grateful.


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