Why Are You a Writer?

cave art La_Pasiega-Galeria_A-Ciervas_(panel_22)
Cave art from La Pasiega, in Cantabria, Spain; Author: Hugo Obermaier, 1913. This work is in the public domain.

 

The human effort to leave a record may be seen in cave art dating back 40,000 years.  What prompted these impulses?  Were early humans teaching a lesson?  Leaving a message?  Were they expressing devotion to a deity or satisfying an inchoate desire for self-fulfillment?  Unknowable as the answers to these questions are, so too, for many of us, is the answer to the question, “Why are you a writer?”

Writing is certainly not the most dependable way to earn money.  And it is a career that carries with it the risk of severe, personal criticism.  So, why write?

I have been writing since I was a child.  For me, writing is a way to communicate.  There are other paths to communication–music, art and dance, for example.  Sadly these avenues are not open to me.  Though I express myself with joy through many art forms, I don’t communicate well through them.  They remain my private pleasures.  Words, however, are malleable in my hands.  I mold them, sometimes nimbly, until they convey my intentions in a way that others can understand.  That’s communication.  That’s why I write.

Was I born a writer?  There’s a school of thought that holds some people are born artists and some are not.  I’ve never subscribed to this view.  Give children crayons and they color.  Read nursery rhymes to them and they respond to the cadence of words.  Creativity and art, I believe, are intrinsic to human nature.  Talents vary, as do life influences and opportunity.  The role each of these played in my choice to write–that is impossible to sort out.

I’m a writer.  I’m comfortable in the role and believe I understand the reasons for my choice.

Why are you a writer?

 

 

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Prologue to Arrows Axes and Scythes

 

witness2
Witness: an illustration from Arrow Axes and Scythes

Below is the Prologue to my upcoming illustrated memoir, Arrow Axes and Scythes.  While the book recalls a time long passed, the influence of those years lasted a lifetime.  The Prologue explains the author’s attempt to convey the emotional content of memory without distorting the essential truth of events.

We are all invisible witnesses. If not for this, how many crimes would be reported?

I think we imagine that children do not see and if they see they do not understand. We reassure ourselves, as we carry on in our imperfect ways, that even if they understand they surely will forget. But the mind is not so dependably careless with its impressions. Many remain for a lifetime.

The events recorded in this book occurred more than fifty years ago, when I was a child. Some memories are lost to me, yet many come back. Are these accurate? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Ideas are not preserved in amber. They are subject to the whims of experience and bias.

My childhood was a time of secrets. Much that is revealed here was never meant to be public. But what I could not say then, will now be told.

At the end of the book one of the personalities, my father, offers testimony for himself. A letter exists in which he describes motivation for his actions. Readers may weigh this evidence and decide for themselves whether or not the document supports my value as a witness.

 

 

 

An excerpt is offered in another blog on this site: A Burial

An Invitation To Write, For ‘Non-Writers’

pen and paper
Try to see the blank page as an opportunity and not a challenge.

By A. G. Moore

You’re probably reading this essay because you want to improve your writing skills. That is the first and most important step on the path to good writing. The next step is easier.  Pick up your instrument of choice–a pen, a pencil, a keyboard–and start writing.

Writing is like speaking.  At first, when you begin–whether it’s a foreign language or your native language in the early years of life–speaking requires great effort. You struggle for the correct phrase. You stumble and make mistakes.  After a while, as you practice and use language on a daily basis, your speech becomes smoother. You think less about how you say something and more about what you want to say.  This is fluency.

Fluency is the goal in writing and is achieved in exactly the same way that it is accomplished in speech: practice.  The more frequently you write, the more fluent your writing becomes.  Once fluency is achieved, certain techniques and rules will help to make the writing more effective. These rules and techniques are easily mastered, but they won’t work unless you have something to use them on.  So write–anything.  Write what you’d like to say.  Worry about correctness later.

Organization, grammar, style–these will come with time. Think of the pieces you write as blocks of clay.  Each time you start out there is no shape, no form to the clay.  As you begin to mold you have an idea of what you would like to see at the end of your sculpting.  After the first cuts, the lump of clay won’t look like anything.  After a while, as you shape a crude form, you can go back with your chisel and refine your art.

That’s exactly what happens in most writing.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are brilliant masters who have a touch of genius.  Words pour from them as water does from a fountain. Most of us don’t have that gift. Most of us will settle for communicating effectively.  If that is your goal, then form an idea, sit in front of a blank page and begin to express your idea.  Once you have words on a page, once you have the rough clay crudely formed, you can use basic techniques to fashion a finished product.  Logic, grammar, style–these are just carefully targeted cuts in the clay.  They can be added and adjusted as the piece takes shape.

The more often you engage in the process of writing, the more fluent you will become. If you doubt this, think about the way you learned to speak. You’ll realize that the separation between the spoken word and the written word is merely a matter of perspective and familiarity. Both of these are in your control and really present no barrier at all.