Why do I write…?

I write because I have to, but that doesn’t sound like the right answer, at least not for me.

I write to give my thoughts substance, to prove to myself my thoughts “exist” and to evidence them with a degree of narrative form. Inside my head they don’t necessarily have a structure and so exorcising them via a keyboard enables me to understand my ideas from an objective perspective. I can’t use a pen to express my ideas, there’s too much contact. With a handheld Scribe’s tool I can only work on one letter at a time. If I misspell a word I get hung up on it, and that combined with scratchy and slow handwriting puts me off even trying. Thankfully because I encountered computers from an early age, I’ve had more experience of hammering words out on a screen and letting spellcheck do most of the editorial heavy lifting.

I don’t honestly know whether this is a genuine reason or if it’s because I presume it will sound cool to read back. The very question of “why do I write?” feels almost like trying to see the spots floating in front of your eyes. The more you try to focus, the less you see, and your eyes start to hurt from trying to fix your gaze on something that may well not have form on the public side of your ophthalmic lens.

I think I write because it lets the sculpture out of the stone. All of my creative endeavours have been about trying to convey an image into the mind of an audience. With music I wrote songs to try to replicate a certain emotion, and tightness of chest in that of another. With DJing I wanted to induce the giddy rhythmic convulsions I’d be subjected to, were I in a place where that succession of records was sonically projected. With acting I wanted an audience to lose themselves in the scene played out before them, and as a stand-up comic I wanted the audience to assume my perspective on a range of subjects, and encourage them to see the ‘funny’ in a range of scenarios. Even with Dog Psychology my aim was to affect a dog’s reaction to a certain stimulus or circumstance to match the scene as I saw it in my mind.

Writing is the most gentle of forms, that only engages the reader that chooses to engage with the writing. If they’ve started reading the likelihood is that they’re not going to storm out of the room or have their night ruined if I do my job badly. Music can grate on an unimpressed listener, potentially for the entire duration of the song. An audience will sigh and shift in their seats if a theatrical presentation isn’t up to snuff. I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who expressed that comedy is the purest form of justice, and someone who is universally loved could get up on a stage to tell jokes but they only have a minute at most to be funny, and if not, no one can save them.

With Screenwriting you’re usually never there when someone reads your work for the first time, and if it’s not good it’s likely it will never go any further. With written pieces you don’t tend to get a negative reaction at all, either people tell you how much they liked it or, more often than not, they won’t say anything. Those sort of odds are my kind of odds, where I don’t disappoint; I may fail to engage, but that’s ok with me, maybe they had a bad day.

There appears to be a clear element of self-protection in this as a justification, which seems at odds with the inherent arrogance that anyone would even want to know my perspective of anything. I cannot understand the mind-set of someone who would have ideas but never give them form. I have only recently come to accept the idea, and allow myself to identify as a creative, without caveat. I am trying to learn to take compliments, even if they make me feel uncomfortable and because it takes a lot to convey an honest appreciation of something and false modesty does not demonstrate courtesy to the compliment-er. This acceptance is not going very well, but the fact that I just wrote it demonstrates it is not far from my mind. I presume this unwillingness to receive praise is inspired by a feeling that being praised could be construed as to elevate me, and I am so desperate to not be viewed as exemplary or extraordinary. Even typing those words gives me pause, because of the arrogance in the presumption that someone would view me in such high regard. But I must write to receive praise and validation, otherwise, why would I bother?

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