Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why Do I Write?

I have gone through several incarnations as a writer. I didn't set out to be a New York writer, but I am on my way to becoming just that once I replace bad habits with good habits. More on those later.

I can create people and places they didn't exist before I take pen to paper, smelling the blue ink as it flows in cursive letters into my notebook, or appear on the monitor as I type on the computer keyboard. Distraction can be an e-mail or website away, so it's best to close all other programs and web browsers.

I believe most creative people use our lives for the sake of art or commerce, and the sooner I accept that, the sooner I'll become a published fiction writer. I'm not a prude, but I think there's something tawdry or unsavory about prostituting my family and friends. My family is rich in conflict, strife, and scandal. Would it be so bad if I were to change the names of a few cousins, aunts, uncles, and write and publish short stories, novellas, and screenplays?

My mother has encouraged me to write a family saga. My aunt has threatened to write it if I don't get my act together and commit pen to paper, keystrokes to screen.

I originally began writing to create believable characters that I'd bring to life on the screen and stage, but along the way my focus wavered and I lost sight of my motivation. Typical actor's response: What's my motivation for this scene?

I wanted to travel along similar paths as Chazz Palminteri, Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, or John Singleton, but my personal tastes and sensibilities are more in step with the racial and social commentaries of Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, and Edward P. Jones.

I have written artist profiles, personal biographies, dance and film reviews, but they use a different muscle. I have several creative works in progress that I need to complete as I keep life's challenges under control. I envy Miss Oates who seems to crank out novels every few months while teaching at Princeton University.

I write to clear my head of the faces, voices, and experiences that have haunted and inspired me over the years. I write to record my thoughts and impressions of the world. I write to explore my boundaries.

I'm not the first, nor will I be the last artist who thinks the work isn't good enough for public viewing and consumption. I'm not an exhibitionist as an artist, so I write for different reasons. I'm not out to prove I'm the smartest, wisest, or funniest. I sometimes stop in my tracks because I don't want to embarrass myself or others.

Writing is opening a vein to the world and being judged. Writing is standing in the midst of rush hour traffic, nude, while onlookers point, giggle, and look at each other in disbelief.

I used to write a daily journal, part of a self-help course, the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. The twelve-week course leaves no stone unturned, and forces the reader to face the person staring back in the mirror. I tried to get other people to work through the course with me, but no one else would. I did the homework alone, and was better for having done so.

I miss writing my daily journal, which is different from keeping a blog. Handwritten journals are more intimate than a blog or one recorded on a computer. I've allowed too many people and things to consume my time and energy. I remember being happier and emotionally healthier when I didn't let the junk to pile up inside, but poured it out on the page.

I still have those journal entries, markers of my chronological, emotional, and spiritual growth. I've thought about transcribing them onto the computer, but I don't know if I will. I keep the safe for now. Perhaps I'll revisit them soon. Is there a memoir or two contained in those pages written before I set foot on the floor in the mornings?

I write because I must. I'm not a businessman, a lawyer, or doctor. I am a writer and must commit words to the page daily. I write because I've stories to tell that I'm sure others would enjoy reading. I write to mark my time on earth.

No comments: