Why I Write

Today, October 20, has been declared the NCTE “National Day of Writing.” The challenge is to respond to the cosmic question, “Why do I write?”

This morning I am writing my Morning Pages in a huge 19” x 24” leather bound book with wonderful, thick pages of handmade paper that take the movement of a roller ball gel pen with just the right amount of satisfying push and pull. I write every day in this giant book, so obviously, writing must be important to me. But why and how?

Pookie, our tortoiseshell cat, watches over my Morning Pages in the Great Book
Pookie, our tortoiseshell cat, watches over my Morning Pages in the Great Book

I live in an analogue RW–Real World. Analogue writing slows the pace of my thinking, so when I write, I am shaping actual thoughts into ideas at the biological pace of mind under the control of hand.

When I don’t do this, thoughts flit across my monkey mind, and I dart around online in meaningless meanders, jumping from one thing to another. I often stop in mid-jump to ask, “Now, what was I doing?” Monkey mind goes so fast that memory can’t keep up with it. This is not what I want for my brain.

Writing, especially writing by hand, slows me down, forces me to shape my thoughts into the grammatical structures of my native language.

Writing helps me plan for the future and to set goals, get things done that I really want to get done.

Writing by hand keeps me smart.

Writing gives me a way to think about the past, mull it over, act on it or let it go.

Writing gives me a way to talk to both the living and the dead when they are far away. It is a way to enter my dreams, react to the news, consider what I’m reading. Right now, my husband Peter is reading Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Odyssey out loud to me, and I write to interrogate Homer, Odysseus, Penelope, the Bronze Age, which I often compare to our own. What has really changed since then?

Writing shapes the responses of my heart as well as of my mind.

I do wonder what the brain of an emotionally mature adult was or is like in a pre-literate world controlled by intuitions, cultural story cycles, and the grammatical shapes of a language that understands the world in a very different way than my own, like Penelope’s , for example.

But to do that wondering…I write.

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