Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing for a Reason

Is this transparent, or is it as opaque as the darkness at midnight?

I don't really have an explicit agenda to guide what I write, today. But for some reason, it seems getting something, anything, written right now is very important. Why should that be? Marrianne has a good job, I'm collecting Social Security. I don't have to work. I don't even have to pretend to look for a job. By some standards that would make doing nothing, at all, make sense.

But where does that set of facts place me in our society? Without a way of making a meaningful contribution to our collective effort?

Whoa. I'm pursuing a tangent here. Maybe, I should explore that point, too, but the question with which I began--why should I feel like I must write something--that's the topic that needs the first look.

And here's part of the answer: Writing is sometimes a very rewarding thing to do, it's almost as if the activity releases endorphins, soothing the brain, like running, steady, easy, far, doses the brain and body with a biochemical bath that comforts and arouses.

But it can't be the whole answer, because sometimes writing is pure torture. I'm not going to go into detail about the way that feels because, you know, mostly I don't tough those moments out. It's too painful to suffer when you're only trying to do the thing that you've wanted to do most in your life. Does that sound sad? Or, merely melodramatic? No matter, it is what I feel and I can almost bring myself to tears thinking about it.

But not quite. The way I can move myself that much, that far, is not by thinking about how I feel, but by writing about how I feel. And that brings me back to the thought that I need to write something, today, anything, because today, writing will give me more than it takes away. Don't ask me how I know that, I just do.

I wish I felt that way every day. If I did, I would write and write and write.

But you can also write yourself into a spot that you would have been better off not going to, at all. I think I may have done just that during an e-mail correspondence with a friend about charter schools.

She's passionately opposed to them, and though I do think I understand and even viscerally resonate with the notion that charter schools are a weapon to undermine teacher's unions and throw one more group of professionals into the ever-expanding swamp of permanently underemployed people, I don't agree.

I'm not going to detail our opposing opinions (though I suppose there is a very good chance that I may blog about that later). I'll just say that throughout our exchange, I probably wrote 10 words for every one she wrote. That's not bragging; I have the time, she doesn't. She works.

No, I'm saying that writing run-on sentences, and pounding the same point over and over, and piling on facts, real or imagined, isn't communicating. It's turning an exchange into a swordfight.

I know, I know. The pen is mightier than the sword, words can liberate, and that's a good thing. But it's also always been true that words can be worse than sticks and stones. Words can bruise and words can bully, and writing 10 words for every one your friend has the time to write is writing yourself into a spot that you shouldn't have gone to in the first place.

So, I'm sorry.

But I'm writing here, now, because, I guess, through all the ups and downs, today I am a writer. And though writers should have readers to share the thought, to bear a share of the load of the thought, writing is where I'll start today, writing is the way I'll go today.

And I can't bully anybody, because nobody has to read this. And, if I write hard enough and long enough I might write myself an answer to that other question: How do I make a meaningful contribution to our collective effort?

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