Why I Write

I love control. I also love creating something from nothing, using words as my medium and demons as fuel, like a warlock casting spells.

More than ever before, we are constantly harassed by advertising images and assaulted with toxic, underdeveloped ideologies that serve a privileged few, deafening the thoughts in our own minds. Meditation is a way of quieting and clearing our minds, and I meditate through writing.

Writing helps me mute the noise of the world and arrange my thoughts in a way that makes sense, and with the right words. In a society that places the greatest value on math and science, or the obfuscating arts of law and politics, too little emphasis is placed on the power of words, beyond cliche axioms like “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Yet, in certain contexts, synonyms in a thesaurus can mean the difference between leveraging equity and signing away your life. And that’s the tricky part about language – the subtle nuances of words. George Orwell famously advocated the use of plain, simple speech for the communication of ideas and avoiding hidden opinions in the subtext of slogans, jingles, or cliche linguistic constructions.

So why do I write? To control my world, in a philosophically Buddhist kind of way. I may not be able to control anybody else, nor would I want that responsibility, but I refuse to surrender my thoughts to anyone. I write to assert my freedoms and admit my ignorance.

And it isn’t easy. It’s not fun in the same way most hobbies are fun. It’s fucking difficult, because all the companies and organizations seeking to control you have more experience, more data, and more overall brain power than you, so finding the truth of something can be akin to finding a beetle in a coal mine or free Justin Beiber tickets. But, if you work hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for (understanding… not Justin Beiber tix). Like working out, writing is often painful and unpleasant, but over time you can hone your mental ninja skills like Bruce Lee honed his reflexes.

I think Salman Rushdie summed up what I’m trying to say very well in his discussion of writerly inspiration:

It’s not inspiration. It’s concentration more and it is to do with developing skills of concentration and I think that is something which, well a few things I think about being a writer that you get better at with time. There are things that you perhaps don’t get better at. Energy is something which maybe declines, but I think concentration, focus, the ability to shut out the extraneous and focus on what you’re doing. I think the more you do it the better you get at it. I think that is true and I think it’s also true that… and I think I’ve heard other writers say it too, that when you write you in a way write out of what you think of as your best self, the part of you that is lacking in foibles and weaknesses and egotism and vanities and so on. You’re just trying to really say something as truthful as you can out of the best that you have in you. And so somehow the physical act of doing it is the only way you have of having access to that self. I mean when you’re not physically writing you don’t have the key to that door and but when you get into—and certainly speaking for me—when I get into a state of properly concentrated attention then I do think that that is… I think of that as my best self, the self that does that. And I wish I had access to it the rest of time, but at least I can find my way to it through that.

It’s not inspiration. I think inspiration is nonsense, actually. Every so often I mean like one day in 20 or something, you will have a day when the work seems to just flow out of you and you feel lucky. I mean you feel and often surprised and you don’t quite know why it is working like that. And on days like that it’s easy to believe in a kind of inspiration, but most of the time it’s not like that. Most of the time it’s… I mean I wish there were more of those days, but most of the time it’s a lot slower and more exploratory and it’s more a process of discovering what you have to do than just simply have it arrive like a flame over your head. So I do think it’s to do with concentration, not inspiration. It’s to do with paying attention and I think the business of writing a great deal of it is the business of paying attention to your characters, to the world they live in, to the story you have to tell, but just a kind of deep attention and out of that if you pay attention properly the story will tell you what it needs.

I’ve always heard that the more you study numbers, the more money you’ll make. Along those lines I’d argue that the more you study language, the more power you’ll have, over yourself and, for better or worse, others. That power can be used or abused, but you’ll be in control of the one thing that has elevated humanity to the top of the food chain, past the moon, and deep into the infinite frontier of space: our minds.

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  1. Pingback: Why Do I Write? | Pendemon

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