April 12, 2013
Why I Keep on Writing
Once every fifth post or so, I feel encouraged about my progress as a writer. I see the development in my ability to express my feelings in words and in keeping to a train of thought. I sense something new and improved in my post as a whole and am happy and satisfied for a time.
And then I read a book by a writer who blows my socks off with their insight, their incredibly knowing way of describing human emotion and motivation, and I begin to think, "Why bother writing when it has already been done this well?" I have been reading one of those 'Collected Works', an awkwardly heavy hard-cover tome containing seven novels by D.H. Lawrence. He, of course, is one of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century, and one of the most famous. Lawrence writes with a clarity, originality and depth that is astonishing to me. I find myself reading a passage and thinking, "How on earth does he do that?" and then wonder if I could manage anything in that league - ever.
I remember when I was in my late teens and my English Literature teacher told me I was a good writer. He was the first to say that to me of any of my teachers and my parents were beginning to encourage me in writing as well. I found out that the best way to learn about writing was to read well, so I started reading all kinds of classic literature and I became a little overwhelmed by the skill with which these masters framed and filled in their stories. When I expressed frustration with my own fledgling efforts, especially in comparison with the sheer craftsmanship of the novels I was gobbling up by the dozen, my mother said something very simple, yet wise, which has stuck with me always: "They do what they do, and you do what you do." Comparisons were futile and unproductive when it came to any of the arts.
I remembered my mother's words the other day when I was reading and exclaiming over D.H. Lawrence's awe-inspiring prose, and I found myself thinking about writing in a whole new way. Stopping writing just because I could not write as well as the authors I so admire was like stopping running just because I am not a 90 pound Kenyan finishing marathons in just over two hours. Or stopping cooking just because I don't have my own cooking show and a ten-book contract like Jamie Oliver or one of those types. I love to run, I love to cook and bake, and I love to write, so I do, but I will strive to improve always. I will challenge myself with long distances when my body says yes, I will continue to seek out new recipes and techniques for the pleasure and satisfaction I get out of tasting and sharing something nourishing and delicious, and I will write, write, write because not to do so creates an emotional and creative dam in me that just begs to be cleared so the thoughts and words can flow how they will. I will do what makes me happy and fulfilled, healthy in mind and body, and although for many that seems obviously the way to think about life, it has been a long journey for me to separate what and how I do things from what and how others do things.
A couple of weeks ago, I wondered if I should carry on with this blog, but after the thought processes that have come about while reading an author who inspires me, I know that for now, I must. Not in order to be a 'great' writer, but to become a better one, which is all I can continue to hope for, whether five or 500 people read my ramblings.
Thank you for reading.