Why I Write (or, Paler Fires)
It’s simple really, I write what I want to read. As a boy, I dreamed of space age sprockets and the menaces on Mars. As a man, I dream of being that boy still. As human beings, we possess this incredible capacity to change and grow, with each other, with ourselves, but then to grow apart, away from each other, away from ourselves. Writing fills those times in between. To write then is to give contours to our greatest vessel for empathy. A writer chronicles all the intimate moments, the tender intervals, of his or her time; their text must invoke life. Writing is the most selfless thing we can do. It is also the most selfish. We yield, if willing, causal power in relation to what we write. Life will never be so eloquent. As communicators, we stumble, and fall. We often fail to deliver our lines with any particular punch or pop. We, when writing, become the architects of sentiment.
‘The writer settles in quiet rooms, hidden from short thought, jotting and plotting, hiding and seeking, the simple truths, waiting at the end of a sentence.’ No. The writer stands in tempered fields, painting the world stalling, encroaching, behind our backs, making confetti of the glittered stars. We coerce the great and the terrible, make vessels of the wicked. We pile our troubles, make accomplices of our deceptions, recline into our delightful murders, and our quiet deaths. It’s all there, held within, leaking out, privately, publicly. Clauses, cadence, inflections, breaths pulled through plosion, the syntax of it all, the melodies and divisions, the half-tones, the punctual quavers, the acidic thunder of assonance and the clicker clang of consonance, the fabulous rhythms, all by design, or none at all. The ruminations of the grass, and the times spent displaced between place and place. To write is to capture the gravity of waterfalls, to call each other by our names. To tear and scratch and moan at the wallpaper, rather than paint over it. It is to burst out of windows, backwards, cackling, with that confetti in our hair. I write to punch up and bloody the face of some unknown thing that presides around me.
The English language is a conflation of many, and so must I be, as a writer, made of many. Our worn manuals, our dirty manifestos, our cosmic instructions, all laden with spinning revolutions and crumbling cacophony, written on the carnival docket, as we are flung through space. I reach for all this. Like the absurdists, the romantics, yes, all the Dadaists, the nihilists, the expressionists, and the new wave fellas, fascinated with fashion and other people’s lives, lifting meaning from anywhere, everywhere, they all did and do too. We misplace misery and whittle away at the little mists that form between the breath of conversation, that fatal blush that seeps in through the open blinds. I write so that I may touch my fingers to the water and tug at the seaweed streamers that dangle up, wanting to pull the voices from the drowned men, their delicate cheering, trembling on the verge of being understood. Perhaps there is a God is held within our ink strokes, or perhaps she isn’t. But I know, the writer traced her.
“And dreadfully distinct/Against the dark, a tall white fountain played” – Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire