This post is part of “DigiLit Sunday,” hosted by Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. This week’s topic, in preparation for the National Day On Writing on October 20, is “Why I Write.” Please be sure to visit Margaret’s blog to read more Digilit Sunday contributions.
“You were made and set here to give voice to your own astonishment.”
~ Annie Dillard ~
When I was growing up, I loved to explore. Inside or out, it didn’t matter. I was curious about what was under every rock and what I could see from the top of each tree. I wanted to know what was in every drawer and old trunk I could find. At one point, I even wanted to be an archeologist so I could say it was my job to find treasure.
I didn’t become an archeologist, but my curiosity has never left me. Daily walks are explorations. I always return home with something: a leaf or fragment of a wasp’s nest, an image in my head or on my camera. Opening a book and entering into unknown worlds is another way to delve into the unknown. Poking around an antique shop or a flea market also recaptures that thrill of discovery.
But the most important way I keep my sense of wonder and curiosity alive is by writing. When I write, I can wander through the woods where I played as a kid. Or pore over old photos from the desk in my grandmother’s living room. I can rummage around in forgotten boxes for hours and still be excited when some long-forgotten memento turns up.
Writing lets me puzzle through questions. The page, after all, is a good listener. Writing lets me have a conversation about subjects no one else is interested in. In both cases, writing clarifies my thoughts about my work and life. Sometimes writing captures my frustrations. Letting the paper absorb my irritation or discouragement helps to dissipate negative feelings.
Writing also allows me, as Ted Kooser so wonderfully described it in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, to have moments “full of joyous, solitary discovery.” I have experienced these moments, although they are they exception, not the rule. What I have learned during my life as a writer, is that the more you write, the more likely you are to make one of those joyous discoveries; a flash of insight, when the right words flow out in the right order. It is a deeply satisfying moment.
The writing I do for myself, because I want to, also puts me in a better position to help my students. I know that extended periods of time to write about things they’re passionate about is necessary if they are to become skilled writers and thinkers. I want my students to have the opportunity to see where their writing takes them. Who knows what they might discover about themselves?
Writing may be satisfying, but it can also be deeply frustrating. My writing always falls short of my expectations. So why do I continue? I keep writing because I always learn something new. And I’m always searching for the undiscovered treasure waiting for me at the bottom of the trunk.