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March 28, 2007

You write because

Lately on all sides I’ve been hearing variations on an old adage; this article quotes Robertson Davies: “There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die.” And in other articles, in conversations, books etc. lately, I’ve encountered this same pressing melodrama, and it troubles me. I understand F. Scott Fitzgerald’s take on it, to some extent. He said, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.” Point taken. But my first reaction to Davies’s assertion is a crisis of confidence. Because if I never wrote anything again, I don’t know that I would go mad or die. The world is far too rich for such an ultimatum. I know that a hole would grow up in my days, and that my fingers would itch for release by pen or keyboard. I know that ideas would continue to appear in my mind, and they’d wait there patiently for cultivation, until they’d wilt and die. If I never wrote again, I would miss it as I would miss never reading again, or never kissing again. But to go out and out mad, or die? I don’t think so. And so I wonder, does this mean that I am therefore not allowed to write at all?

Lately I’ve sat down to write for six or seven hours every day, and I’ve done it because I love it. In my life so far, I’ve found no better way to spend my days. I know I will have to rejoin the real world soon, which makes me appreciate the last two years all the more. It has been a pleasure to devote my days to reading, learning, and writing. Writing makes me thoroughly happy, and if I never have such freedom again, at least I had it once. And I think that’s enough really. No Robertson Davies lightning bolt has ever shot down from the sky and compelled me to deliver my manifesto, but world all around me inspires me to write all the time.

Everywhere I go is whispering with stories, and I write them down because to do so fills me with joy.

2 thoughts on “You write because”

  1. Crissy Calhoun says:

    i don’t think Davies is right.

    you are right to write and have every right to write for those reasons you list. right? so continue to write.

    (that was fun.)

  2. Steph D says:

    Perhaps he meant one would die psychically – to live a life where you are just going through the motions and not able to experience the joy that you glean from writing every day… I know many creative people who, when they don’t express this creativity, lose their joie de vivre.

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