backhand stories the creative writing blog

Why do I write?

I’ve been asked to explain this on more than one occasion, often in a Yuletide forum by relatives who want only what’s best for me. These questions are presented with a roll of the eye or an unassuming furrowed brow and often contain the words ‘what’, ‘in’, ‘the’ and ‘hell’. Each time the question is posed, the more difficult I find it to answer. As time passes, the reasoning that once seemed so black and white, morphs more and more into a menagerie of Freudian color and malformations, looking less like the once straight forward presentation and more like the aftermath of a drunken war of paintbrushes between Pollock and Neiman.

As a child, the stories were necessary as an escape to the anything-but-civil war taking place in my house. But now, as an adult, that excuse, much like the ones used to justify biting my sister, no longer exists. So, why keep writing? Because the stories keep coming, whether I want them to or not. Sometimes they’ll wake me from a PG-13 dream (rated so as it contained the occasional profanity) with a far from gentle nudge to my shoulder. “Hey, wake up! I just thought of a good story. Listen, listen. Okay, there’s this guy,…you following me, so far?” I may resent these at first, but getting it out on paper, in the end, is as thrilling an accomplishment for me as the mad scientist realizing his dream to create the ultimate death ray to control mankind.

Another reason, though, one just as important in my book (even that one’s unpublished) is to entertain. Not just myself, but anyone who will read (which, as it currently stands, are friends and the occasional editor or literary agent wanting me to lose their address in the future). I am not so narcisistic to think I can change the world via my prose. All I want is to make someone smile before they return to their passionless job or turn on the evening news to find out the world still spins in a downward spiral. Too many writers I’ve met set out with the intention of making a profound statement, of being seen as an intellectual commentator wishing to open the eyes of their fellow man. That sort of writing has its place, definitely, but can also be saturated and senseless if too many voices at once scream for the Pulitzer to look their way. My belief is much simpler. As said in the Preston Sturges film Sullivan’s Travel, “A lot can be said for making people laugh. Do you know that’s all some people have? It isn’t much, but its better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.”

Another driving force, unarguably the most selfish of all, is the fear of death. The fear of being forgotten like Alice Gilkey 1887-1935. Who? Exactly. One story published is forever available to future readers or seekers of the obscure and mediocre. To entertain is one thing, to entertain from beyond the confines of time and space is magical. The thought of someone enjoying reading that which I enjoyed writing is a beautiful one.

Why do I write?

If the reason I write was on trial for murder and my argument determined its fate, its last words may very well be, “Did the governor call?” I’m not sure whether I could convince anyone that my reasons for writing are just. If I could, I wouldn’t question it myself every night before falling asleep. Maybe the question itself is unanswerable in a way that would convert nay-sayers and left brainers to be in unanimous agreement in respects to my literary pursuits. Perhaps, no one argument is enough, just as a thousand answers may be too few. So, perhaps I have wasted the reader’s time, for which I apologize, but it cannot be said that my efforts were insincere. Again, why do I write? I write because…well, because I’m a writer.