Once while driving and listening to NPR (everyone who knows me is collectively saying, “Of course,”) I heard an interview with writer Isabelle Allende in which she said she began writing because she had so many words swirling inside her head she needed to put them down, get them out, lest she go crazy. My mental image of elegant Ms. Allende spilling out all those words from her over-stuffed head, streams of words pouring through her fingertips into the keyboard and rising up on the computer screen, like filling up a word aquarium, always makes me smile. But her reason is not my reason for writing, and I would never compare myself to Isabelle Allende.
I’m a day late with this blog prompt, raison d’etre or, why we write, because I needed some time to ponder this thing I love doing, but of which I gave no thought of why. It’s not like cooking, which I also love doing but which has an immediate, tangible result, one through which I can show love for my people. It’s not like photography, which allows me to capture an instant of beauty in time, or a bloom which will die and never be again, as long as I set the aperture and shutter speed correctly. It’s much harder than either of those and yet I am compelled, even while never satisfied with my product, never quite reaching a moment like the post-Christmas-dinner moment, pushing back my plate and satisfied I got the beef tenderloin perfectly medium rare.
I started blogging on another, now defunct site when I began working in Education. Maybe it was a little like Ms. Allende’s reason – everything I was experiencing was so beautiful and horrible, so frustrating and rewarding, I needed some place to put it all.
A love of words and facility with language have always been with me; I don’t remember learning to read, it’s like I just always could, and did, voraciously, often at the expense of actual school work. How clearly I remember evil Mrs. McNair with the horrifying metallic green eye shadow, explaining my poor grade to my mother, “Anyone who can sit at the back of the classroom turning as many pages of a book as she does is certainly capable of far better work than she turns in, at the last minute and clearly rushed through”.
Books were a great escape from the dysfunction of my family. As my father’s business failed, so did my parents’ marriage and while their fights were ugly and frequent, I could tune it out by closing my bedroom door and disappearing between the pages of a book.
Writing came easily at first; I actually won the District award for best short story in 6th grade. It was the first time I thought maybe the praise given me over the years in this area might be real, not just smoke blown, the things adults say to children to motivate them. In some box stashed in my closet lives a bronze-colored medal on a ribbon, given me the night I read my story to an auditorium full of classmates, our parents, and District personnel. In the wake of Watergate, I’d written a story about the First Robotic President (having recently discovered Ray Bradbury), and everyone laughed in all the right places. Like many a child frequently laughed at, I learned being funny was a way of beating the bullies at their own game, and also useful in deflecting the pain. I hadn’t realized until that night I could do it in a planned manner, nor the more important lesson that “dying is easy; comedy is hard”.
Our words can bring trouble, too, as I learned within two years of my glorious, award-winning night when, coming through the front door one afternoon I met my mother descending the stairs, my diary in her hands. A precocious twelve or thirteen, with the confusion of my younger years now giving way to that clarity of vision, especially regarding all their parents’ faults, peculiar to the teenager. Add an emotionally unstable mother into the mix and a toxic situation is bound to unfold, and it did. My very thoughts were wrong, I was wrong, evil, and ungrateful. Also grounded, the period of time “… until I think you’ve learned your lesson…”. In time as we know it, this is several months with no telephone, no friends over, no visiting friends, back and forth to school only, completely isolated from my peers, just at the time peers were becoming all-important. It was the first of several such groundings, for everything from sassing and rolling my eyes to getting a “B” on my report card. Since my thoughts and feelings were so dangerous to my personal liberty, I stopped putting them on paper. I locked them up, where she couldn’t see and punish me with them.
God has a stealthy way of caring for us, visible generally only in retrospect: my crazy, glamorous High school English teacher, Mrs. Huff, hounding me into taking her Advanced Creative Writing class; unwittingly forging a reputation in my company for the best emails anyone received, the ones they read all the way through; a secretarial job that turned into writing legal documents; returning to college and having my British Lit professor say, “I saved your paper for last, because I knew it would be good”; a psychologist who understood and challenged me, taught me that feelings themselves aren’t the dangerous things, it’s what you do with them.
It is perhaps the feelings that drove me to blogging. You can’t work in Education and not have a lot of strong feelings or you shouldn’t anyway. If, in High school you’d told me that working on a High school campus and dealing with hormonal teenagers every day, all day, would be the job I loved the most I would have laughed and laughed and called the men with the white coats to come take you away. But it turned out to be the best. Also the worst. I found I was continually horrified by the stupidity of our system, and amazed, brought to tears, filled with admiration for those brave souls who answer the call to Teach. I felt so much, I had to put it somewhere external, like running a game that requires so much resource you need an external hard drive just to play. Writing provides a place to think things out, arrange the words until I can say, yes, that’s pretty close to what I felt at that moment, or, that looks close to what my heart feels.
In time, it evolved and there were connections made with other bloggers. And there it is, so many paragraphs later: connection. Writers write, this writer writes to connect. Sometimes, I swing and miss. Ever so rarely, I hit one over the fence. But always it is the desire to connect, to talk about things with my fellow man. Some writers connect through time, as Marcus Aurelius has with me and many others; the Brontes, my beloved Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Confucius, Mohammed, all the writers known and unknown of the Old Testament and the New. They connect through time and show us what their world is, was, or could be, through truth and Truth, fact and fiction.
In the year of Our Lord, two thousand sixteen, the miracle of the Internet connects humans all over the world instantaneously through their keyboards and all the millions of miles of fiber cable encircling our globe thus, I am eagerly looking forward to trying a recipe posted by a blogger from Norway, I read inspiring poetry from a Texan, keep up with the sacred and sometimes profane doings of my beloved RevGals wherever they are, and laugh over the nerdy adventures of a family in North Carolina. Through our writing we are our most human, vulnerable, and we connect.
My raison d’etre: I write to connect.