More than once, I've been asked, "Why do you write?" I've usually answered with a trite response, so trite that, fortunately, I can't remember what I said. Today, while hiking in the Belmont hills, I asked myself the same question, and as I walked I spoke to myself and came up with ten reasons why I write. While some of the reasons overlap and can be integrated into one another, I found enough difference in each to separate them. As for the order, it holds no particular significance. I merely present them as they came to me.
Number one, I write for joy. It's as simple as that. When someone asks me, "What do you do for fun?" I tell the questioner I write. Usually the person follows up and says, "But what do you really do for fun?" Again, I tell the questioner I write. When the questioner further says, "But you must do something else for fun" I say, "I'm sorry, I don't have fun, I just write, that's all."
Number two, I write to transcend, to avoid the world. I suppose if I liked the world I wouldn't have such a need to transcend it, but since the world (not to be confused with life) sucks, I need my transcendent fix, and writing does that for me.
Number three, I write to enter my inner refuge, my sanctum sanctorum, my sacred, safe, familiar place, as familiar as mama's pasta sauce and hiding under the covers and eating ice cream on a hot summer day and drinking hot chocolate on a winter morning.
Number four, I write for the autonomy it provides, where I am in total control. I write what I want, how I want, under the conditions I want. I don't answer to a boss or anyone else. I am monarch, dictator, president, the highest authority in the land of my mind.
Number five, I write to prove to myself that I can do it, that I am not stigmatized by my negligent upbringing, void of books, learning and encouragement, where no one went to college and in many cases didn't graduate high school, to prove to myself that, my gosh, I can be smart, imagine that.
Number six, I write because it's a noble pursuit. Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote in his epic poem, "Ulysses": "Death closes all, but something ere the end, some work of noble note may yet be done, not unbecoming men that strove with Gods." Those two words, noble note, have been etched in my brain for more than forty years. What can be more noble than striving with Gods in pursuit of creating a noble note?
Number seven, I write to learn. Numerous times when I have traveled I have seen something of historical importance--a sculpture, a painting, an old manuscript--and when I return home I am curious to know more about where I was and what I saw, so I research, reading countless books, resulting in my writing about and re-shaping history in my own words to better understand it.
Number eight, I write to fine-tune my brain, to keep it well-oiled with words, syntax and ideas, to keep all the parts of my machine fueled, to postpone as long as possible, if not avoid altogether, the deterioration of my cerebral cortex.
Number nine, I write for beauty's sake, to make melody and form a rhythm out of the ordinariness of life, where the human voice can ascend to heaven on wings of language, music and love.
Number ten, I write to join the river of thought, that eternal stream thousands of years old, the summation of who and what we are, where all human thought flows, and though my contribution is shallow compared to the great thinkers, I am content to say I have attempted to wade in its water.
Remarkably, I came up with these reasons and their details while walking without pen or paper (a cardinal sin for a writer to leave home without them). I walked for an hour and recited the details to myself, as if I were practicing a monologue, which is further proof of the importance, as stated in my eighth reason, of keeping my brain fine-tuned.
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