Every year for National Day on Writing, I reflect on why I write.
It’s like looking at a diamond ring in a semi-darkened room. Different facets catch the light, scattering sparks of brilliant color, red to orange, green to blue. Writing, for me, is an inner fire. A living fire. It is in my blood the way that farming was in my grandfather’s blood, that music is in my son’s, that crafting was in my mother’s, that a love of children was in my grandmother’s. I see different facets even in these comparisons. Farming is about sustenance. Cultivating the earth, harnessing resources to make it produce—this is what earth is designed to do. Music is expression, form, response, sounds in time, even color. It can be endlessly repeated and replicated; it is the unique and universal language of humankind. Crafting…it takes skill to make a new, useful thing from pieces placed exactly right, sewing them together so that the seams don’t detract. My mother was given a hand-me-down sectional sofa covered with pink scratchy fabric (it was 1970s horrible). She studied it, measured it, bought earth-tone floral fabric and cording and systematically created a custom slipcover that lasted for years. The love of children…does this not tie all of the above? Creating, nurturing, producing, expressing, a contribution to the future.
Writing is all of this.
One can make the argument that all these things are learned, and so they are. But that doesn’t account for the compulsion to do them even when there is no need. Granddaddy gardened into his nineties when he didn’t have to produce his own food anymore, when all he could manage was two small rows in the old dog pen after the dog was dead and gone. He carried a chair to sit on and rest between the kneeling to weed. My son hears all the instruments, all the harmonies, in a song; he spends hours recording a song over and over with different instruments, singing the different vocals, until it all comes together like he wants it…simply for the joy of accomplishing it. My mother received little income from the clothes she made for people; she crocheted countless baby blankets as gifts. She made flop-eared stuffed bunnies with changeable clothes, for the whimsical fun of it, never making a dime. Craftsmanship is beauty unto itself. Like art. Like music. My grandmother’s face shone like the sun at sight of children. I was one of her greatest beneficiaries, my life indelibly shaped, still being shaped, by her love. I might also mention it was Grandma who sparked my love of reading and writing long before I could do either.
Writing, in the end, has much to do with story. At least for me. The story of having lived and loved. The story of seeking the beautiful. The story of gratitude for finding it, in all of life’s brilliant facets and sparks, even in the shadows. There would not be shadows if there were no light. It is there, always there, for the capturing.
And so I write.
Necklace given to me by my father. Years later, it still shines.