Angie walked into a bookstore and her eyes fell on one book: “Creative writing a practical guide”. She picked it up and opened it randomly.
Here is what she found:
I have written this book for people who want to write, who know there is a writer inside them, but who find the leap of taking themselves seriously, and so beginning to write every day, an all but impossible one to take. Equally, it is for those who have written but are now silent. If you are a writer (and if you are there is a kind of death in not writing) you have to make many new beginnings — because of all the things in your life that can make you, for a time, lose your tongue. I hope this book will encourage those who have been silenced to hear again their own writer’s voice: to take the risk of beginning again.”
Angie found this short preface very attaching and very interesting. She even wondered: “In which category do I fall? Am I from those people who want to write ? or did I find my own voice but it became silent for some unknown reason?”
She turned the next page and started reading. The title of the new chapter was “why write?” and Angie said to herself: “What? What kind of questions is that? Why do we write? Umm… because when we were in school we were required to write…” Angie looked back at the book in her hands and started reading:
“I often wonder why I write. I’ve spent hours talking to friends, writers and non-writers about it. For the first 25 years of my life I was convinced that everybody was either writing or wanted to write a novel.
“That’s a weird thought”, Angie thought to herself. “What make a person think that people are either writing or wanting to write a novel?”
Finally a woman I worked with told me in no uncertain terms that she had no such desire, which threw me utterly. I’d assumed she was writing in secret, as I was — pursuing a universal dirty habit that demanded solitude and a quiet place — when instead she was watching TV or out at the pub with friends: being social. Writing isn’t usually a social activity, except when you’re working on exercises together in a writers’ group — and even then you’ll find that you do most of your writing alone, in whatever space and time you can carve out for yourself.
One thing seems clear: it isn’t as natural as breathing. The myth of the ‘natural’ writer, who spins vast, architectural webs of exalted verse or prose is a treacherous lie which many writers have done their best to rub out, only to watch it appear again, healthy as ever, in literary columns, popular films about literary ‘giants’, even in the biographies of writers. No matter how much writers protest, non-writers seem to like the idea that writing is easy, not the arduous manual, emotional and intellectual labour writers know it to be. Simone de Beauvoir expressed great irritation when someone implied that anyone could have written The Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. If anyone could have written it, why was she the only one to have done so? Writers constantly have to deal with this prejudice, and it is well worth remembering this before discussing writing with casual acquaintances.
I think people write because they need to. Lawrence Durrell described it as a way of becoming more human.
This process can take the form of fly-fishing with some people, Japanese boxing or embroidery with others. With writers it takes the form of writing. It takes time to understand this need, but I believe that the more we write, the more fully we grasp why it is we want to, have to. In A Room of One’s Own Virginia Woolf argues that even though a person’s gift for writing may be small, it is nevertheless death to hide it. The writer, for whatever reasons, is compelled to write. She or he may be able to suppress the compulsion for months or even years, believing perhaps that there are more worthwhile, less selfish ways to spend one’s time. But who can tell the damage we do to our writing voices when we roughly silence them for long stretches?
There is a magic in words. We wade around in so many glossy pointless circulars, so many yards of dubious newsprint, that it is easy to forget this primary fact: it is words, and our ability to speak and write, which make us human. Words give us power over every other creature and thing in the natural world. Those who cannot write have less power than those who can: their acts of naming are restricted to those who will listen to them, those in the immediate locality. They cannot easily communicate with other societies or with those who are not yet born, as people can who know how to write. Bertolt Brecht advises people who are hungry to learn the alphabet. Knowledge of the skills of literacy is an important step towards taking control of one’s own life.
Many societies, our own included, have imposed severe penalties on those who have aspired to the power that writing can give. Ruling groups have found that their interests are best safeguarded if they are supported by a workforce which cannot think for itself in the coherent way writing affords. The agents of the Spanish Inquisition burned books, as did the Nazis. Books can be dangerous because the reading and writing of them involves us in an exercise of intellectual freedom.”
( The text in italic is taken from: “Creative writing a practical guide” by Julia Casterton (Macmillan, 2nd edition, 1998)