What I Write about when I Write about Writing

Last week, I wrote about ambition and the creative impulse. This week I’m engaging not the broad question of why I create, but why for me that creation specifically takes the form of writing.

color on a rainy day~this morning’s tea-friends

I’ve been sitting with this question for a week now, writing and steeping, but it was a walk in the spring woods that jolted the pieces until they locked together. I write because writing is the best way I know to capture the entire experience of what it means to be human in a gorgeously messy world.

It’s not that writing is better. For sheer visceral reaction, music and visual art are unparalleled. They can tell stories, but what they do best is take us to the places beyond words, digging us up and replanting us in fertile soil.

It is writing, for me, that most fully engages all the senses. I thought about this walking through the woods–the tug of the dog on her leash, pure energy; the scent of rain-soaked woods burgeoning with life springing from decay; the feel of shedding sun-warmth on my skin for the subtle chill that lingers deep beneath the canopy on a sweltering day. Words are the amber in which I trap the life of body and mind.

There is a strange rebel alchemy that takes place between experience and thought, between hand and page, between page and reader. I offer up gifts; you take them and make of them what you will.

I don’t think one art form is in any way better. But it is writing that allows me to render up my lived experience in a way that (I hope–I think) transfers to you with as little confusion as possible.

I love to paint, sing, dance–but writing is the home to which I return again and again. From my journal-musings on the subject: I write because it is the best way I know to tell stories, and stories are our salvation. They will be our redemption or our downfall, these stories we are all telling ourselves in every waking moment…..I am fascinated by how we are always telling and retelling the same stories. What do we hope to gain?…..I write because I don’t want to slip away. I want there to be things in this world that last…..I write because it is easy for me, and because it is hard.

I have so many ideas about this that I can’t offer up any one kernel, one crystallized and radiant thought. I think that is perhaps why I need writing most–because it gives me this space, this possibility, this nuance, this infinity of words within the bounds of twenty-six small characters.

Having said all that–for examples of what art and music can do that my writing will never achieve, check out the gorgeously eerie photography of Cara Walton and the deeply humane music of Stan Stewart.

Why do you write about when you write about writing?

5 thoughts on “What I Write about when I Write about Writing

  1. Gorgeous. I love this: “Words are the amber in which I trap the life of body and mind.” So good! I have thought what you said – about how art and music express so much and engage so many senses. I have felt jealous that I can’t art and I can’t music, because the squeaky soul of mine has so much it wants to say. I write because I CAN do that, even if I can’t do the other things. And it’s only recently that I have thought, “If you CAN, then you damn well SHOULD.” If writing is done right, it can engage just as many of the senses. You sure did!

    1. Thanks so much, smilecries! I’m glad it struck a chord with you. I do other forms of art, but definitely not with any level of expertise. I’m more of a piddler and messer-around. Words are where I feel like I’m on solid ground. Most of the time….. 🙂

  2. Brenna, you articulate the call to write so beautifully – I have been fortunate to experience that visceral world of painting too, and it is truly an alchemy all its own. But stories…”our salvation…our redemption or our downfall…” So true!

    1. Thanks, Peggy! You are so generous with your reading-time and your kind words. I’m so glad I can offer something that resonates with you. Didn’t realize you’re a painter! Very cool!

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