Wednesday, November 20, 2013

why writing matters

okay... bear with me, because i started writing this post twelve minutes before midnight and eventually fell asleep (unintentionally, i might add) at about 12:40. it will be long, but it's made up of important things i've been wanting to say, and the length is merely a side-effect of that.

i've always loved reading and writing - a clause which sounds rather hackneyed and clichéd but which i decided to nevertheless use, because it is, at its roots, true. i won't launch into, "for as long as i can remember...", but suffice it to say that my parents have a deep love and respect for literature and they in turn passed this love on to me.

i was pretty keen on writing, too, and by the age of 8 had penned a masterpiece entitled, "The Chicken Who Couldn't Stop Running", complete with illustrations of a hen in takkies. child protégé much? ;) despite not being the best kid to ever pen a sentence (i was being ironic about the protégé business, in case you didn't pick up on that), i kept writing all sorts of silly stuff throughout my childhood-slash-adolescence - usually half-typed short stories about twins named Lisa and Jake and their group of friends who were investigating mysteries at Christmas-time, or about a foreign planet with a hero named Aldred... or something like that. these were all proverbially penned from the heart and tucked away safely in Creative Writer 2. no kiddin'.

when i read over my attempts at stories, though, they felt a bit trite and a bit laboured, and so i'd try to start over with slightly different characters or slightly manipulated settings, and wouldn't succeed in my attempt to really improve the story, and would try again, but would feel discouraged and wouldn't ultimately like what i'd written. i never stopped reading, but gradually i stopped writing; it just didn't feel like i was any good.

this isn't to say that i stopped writing altogether; i could still churn out pretty decent narrative essays for English lessons, and discovered the penning of poetry when i was 11 - an exercise from which i still take so much joy, and easily a decent amount more joy than i get out of writing narrative prose. i never stopped loving the art of writing, but instead channelled it into other avenues - blogging (which, i have found, was and is a fun way to be dramatic and myself without having to stress a great deal about whether or not the characters i'm portraying are realistic and funny and moving, whether or not the setting is believable or the plot is entertaining - the characters, setting and plot i put forward are always non-fiction) as well as poetry and the appreciation of other people's writing.

nevertheless, when you spend so much time appreciating other people's writing, you start to question why you stopped writing your own things in the first place. i blame this condition on Markus Zusak, Anne Lamott and Don Miller, on Robin McKinley, CS Lewis and Suzanne Collins. I blame it on John Green, Milan Kundera and Gabriel García Márquez, on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jonathan Safran Foer and Gail Carson Levine, on Julio Cortázar and his beautiful short story "Graffiti". there are many other unnamed culprits responsible in part for the growth of this feeling in me, but my point is not to list all the authors by whom i've ever felt inspired (and don't get me wrong - they more than deserve recognition for their profound impact not only on me but on hundreds of millions of readers around the world) so much as it is that in reading all of these authors's novels and more, i was receiving (at first subtly, and then more and more obviously) a giant kick in the pants. to do what, you ask? well, to write, of course.

at this stage, it's sort of starting to sound like a quick fix - "oh, you've never enjoyed writing or thought you were any good at it? well, read all of these books and you'll suddenly feel such a lightning-bolt of inspiration that you'll (somewhat magically) be equipped with all the tools necessary to pen a masterpiece! voilà!" um, no. i still haven't written a substantial amount of anything and/or read over said writing and not felt the urge to send it all on a red-eye flight to the trash can. you see, writing exacts labour; it demands frustration and it requires patience. i'm not particularly good at any of those three things. nevertheless, i've decided to start writing again, because WRITING IS IMPORTANT, and i've realised that without a few failures and misfires, i'll never get any better or write anything with which i'm vaguely pleased. i've brought home my copy of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and this time i will get through it and attempt to take a good deal (if not all) of her advice about writing and life.

so, why does writing matter, you ask?

here're some other great quotes about writing that i found while writing this blog post:

(all of these quotes were sourced from the wonderful Quote Factory :) )

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