Thursday, January 12, 2017

What's the Point of Writing?

I got my fifth rejection letter today. Though I pretend not to care, I do. It takes something out of me each time that it happens.

So why am I doing it?

What's the point of all this?

* * * 

When I was a child I would pretend I could control the wind.

We had long uncut grass much of the time and when the wind whipped through it, it looked like a wild safari or the grasses of the Savanna. I orchestrated the movement of the wind with my arms, with mad, sweeping movements and grand gestures that demonstrated my command over nature. I was all powerful and in control — and it was transcendent. I could pretend that the chaos that was going on inside the house was far away. I'd get lost in the way the leaves of the grass would sway back and forth, looking like a silvery gray sea when the undersides of the grass flicked towards the sun, and then flipped back to a dark green sea as I commanded the wind to blow the other way.

* * * 

When I was a child I pretended I was a deep sea diver in a blue plastic pool in the backyard.

I had a snorkel and a mask and I circled about endlessly, the water warm the sun. Strips of grass and leaves floated lazily past the glass of my mask, twirling in a vortex I'd created with my circular laps. I'd pop my head up over the water, over the edge of the pool, and then taste the blue plastic while I gazed across the yard, watching dandelion puffs float through the sky. I could get lost in that world. Another world. Underwater, removed, silent and undulating with currents I'd created. I liked the feel of the grass under my feet as I ran back inside the house, pieces of grass sticking to my feet and ankles.

* * * 

Why write?

I've been wondering this since I've been trying to blog every day (or at least every week day) for the month of January. Scroll back and you'll see I'm not exactly accomplishing this goal. Why the resistance? Why the battle? Isn't this supposed to be something I love?

I've been struggling with the edits on my memoir. I'm blocked by a difficult chapter and I keep striking upon the same spot where I stop "showing" and start "telling" the story. I'm undone by this. I don't even know where to begin fixing it. And the chapter has fifty pages. I'm overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task.

So why write? What's the point?

I'm acting like it's a job or burden. I submitted some short pieces to the literary journals because I want to be read. The blog is supposed to be pleasure. The memoir is what I chose to write. These are all things I want to do. I have something in me that compels me to write. A song that needs to be sung. A song that's been stuck in my throat since I was that little girl conducting the winds and creating the currents.

Writing is not a burden.

Writing is getting lost in that magic space in my head. Writing is the lull of the wind across the tops of the grass. Writing is the warm water and the sun filtering through it. Writing is a music that only I can hear.

Maybe I want that song to be heard? Maybe I'm singing it because it needs to be sung? Maybe I'm singing because it's the only voice that I have?

I don't know.

But whatever the reason, it is not a burden. It's not a job. It's not something to feel ashamed of or to fret over.

This is magic. This is music. This is mystery. This is the only space where I conduct the song. Every note. Every measure. Somehow I keep forgetting to just open my mouth and sing.

* * * 

This is the only place where I'm free.


  1. When I can't write something, I write about why I can't write it. Explaining the specific dread or stumbling block on the page usually makes it seem manageable.

    1. Interesting approach. I wonder if it works for editing ...

    2. Why not? Another technique I do is to randomly edit paragraphs. Print out the chapter, cut up each paragraph or dialogue block and put it in a bowl, then randomly select one. Seems goofy--and it probably is--but it allows you to get out of the narrative a little bit and focus mechanically.

      Also, this is a memoir. You writing about the writing process would fit into the work and be very relevant. Just a suggestion.

  2. I'm not a writer, so I could really be talking out of my ....feet. Does writing come easier when you are writing for yourself, or for others to read? Do you flow faster, better when you are just trying to get it out of your head? Or do you feel you need to write for others to see?

    1. I'm not entirely sure. I can't really separate one from the other. Writing seems at its very core the desire to communicate.

  3. Hi Mandy,
    Rejection letters will drive you up the wall, we all hate rejection. If your job was reading manuscripts and for every one you find interesting your boss asks: Will this sell like 'Harry Potter'...???
    Your manuscript rejection is a loss to everyone on this planet. Until someone decides your work is worth publishing, you and the reading public are at the mercy of publishers looking for next 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' or 'Harry Potter'.
    Have you thought about publishing this yourself.
    Sincerely, Richard :) ;) :)
    P.S. I've heard the number of days in any month depends on the woman. If she writes a blog for each day of the month and she writes five blogs...this means the month has five days.
    Your blogs are so good they are priceless and we are happy to have one. A thank you for each post. There is more...later.

    1. I'd consider publishing the memoir myself after it's rejected by every publisher I can hit up. So we'll have to wait and see.