Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Write Because I Am by Joy Preble

I write because story is how I make sense of the world. Like many of us, I believe we're hard-wired that way. Before written language, we kept our histories through story. We passed them down from person to person and I'm sure along the way we honed and tightened those narratives. It's part of who we are, this storytelling thing. It's how we keep track. That line from HAMILTON pops into my head as I type this: "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story." Story matters.

When I visit schools and present talks about my writer's life, I always say some version of the following: All stories, including mine, are at their core about what it means to be human. What it means to love and live and lose and fear and hope and all the rest of it. For me there is no end of mining that through stories and characters. There is always more to learn. Lately I'm especially fond of figuring out what happens when it all breaks: when our lives implode, when the rug gets pulled out on us, the safety net ripped away--when we're lost and scared and things seem hopeless. What then? I always want to know. What will the character do? What will any of us do? What will I do?

So yeah, writing is like a form of self-therapy and I doubt that I'm alone in thinking that.

But of course it's more than that.

I write for some of the same reasons I read and consume story through other mediums: because story builds empathy. As so many of us talk about ( a lot lately in this particular, toxic political climate), we need both windows and mirrors in our fiction. I need to be able to find myself in a story -- see characters who are like me in crucial ways, know that I'm not alone. But I also need to fictionally live in worlds that aren't mine. Find the common humanity in characters living lives vastly different from my own.

So I write. And I write. I try to represent the truth as best as I can and then I try a little harder. I want to get as close to authentic as I can. Sometimes it's trickier than others. For me personally, I write to tell stories that don't always have happy endings--where there's murk and grey areas and the bad guys aren't always just bad and the good guys aren't always just good and some of my characters can't bear to look the truth in the face, although I always give them the chance. This bothers some readers, I know. They want it wrapped up. They want to know. They want everything to be fair and equal and exactly as they see it or want it to be.

I write because the world is not fair, is not always equal, is rarely wrapped up tight, is quite often different from what we think. I write because weird stuff happens and the unexplainable and it is my job to poke at that and try to figure it out. I write because the world seems too damn short on empathy these days, although honestly has it ever had an abundance? And yeah, here comes another HAMILTON quote, the verb shifted to make sense here. "I write my way out."

Why do you write?


6 comments:

  1. I write to share, to explain, to understand.

    Bonus points for Hamilton!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice.
      And yes to Hamilton bonus points!

      Delete
  2. I write for numerous reasons. Sometimes I'm curious about where the story will take me, sometimes to get something unstuck in my head, sometimes as a form of secret and perfect revenge and sometimes because the tale is too good not to share.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. Yeah, that Lin-Manuel Miranda knows how write stuff!

      Delete