Why do I write, anyways?

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.  You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.  […] Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.  There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Lamott gives this gem of a quote on page twenty-two of her book Bird by Bird in a chapter aptly titled “Shitty First Drafts.”  It has, more than less, been the advice guiding me as I draft my “Why I Write” essay.  Since this paper is not academic, per se, and it isn’t strictly formal, I took Lamott’s advice.  After begging the boys living upstairs again to please, for the love of God, turn down the club level rage music (it’s a Tuesday, for Christ’s sake!), I plopped down in the middle of my bed, laptop on my knees, and I just started typing.  What came out were several paragraphs that individually and collectively were strange, inappropriate, tear inducing, funny (maybe?), but (definitely) completely and utterly honest.  One fact about me that I previously tried to hide but lately have been embracing is that I cannot stand bull shit.  I don’t like when people force me to hear it, and I find spinning it to be horribly exhausting.  So instead of starting with the half-true premise that, “I write to express myself and to get a good job!” I said what I really thought.  I typed and what came out was that I write because sometimes it is just too hard for me to find the right words on the fly—I get nervous, and sometimes I just choke.  Writing gives me the minute that I need to pick the right word.  I write because it’s a way for me to reconcile the different characters I play during the day: Katherine at work with politically correct manners and the most soothing phone voice you ever did hear; Kat who runs around with the boys because she can’t handle the mess that happens when alcohol mixes with estrogen; Katherine who goes to the gym four times a week to keep her anxiety in check; and Kat who doesn’t understand normal girls’ hysterics about needing boyfriends because she is honestly and completely happy being by herself.  I am all those people, and writing helps me move towards the point where can merge my different selves into one who is the same throughout the day and night.  I write because I fucking love it.  Following Lamott’s advice, I came up with some really weird things.  But then again, I’m weird.  And if it takes six pages of nonsensical typing to get me to remember that so I can say honestly why I pick up a pen and spew my thoughts all over the paper, then thank you, Ms. Lamott.  It was totally worth it.

4 thoughts to “Why do I write, anyways?”

  1. This is cool. I am really glad that you “fucking love” writing and that you aren’t going to bullshit a paper. I also think that it is interesting that you writing about how you like writing brought out personal realizations and tendencies that you weren’t afraid to share. I also like the idea of writing allowing you room to choke, and then fix it without anyone knowing, not like when you are speaking in a class. I feel sort of the same way. Thanks for sharing!

  2. HEARD. THAT. There is nothing worse than hearing or spewing a whole bunch of bullshit. If you can’t say how you’re really feeling then why talk at all? I personally hate when I am required to be somewhere and it’s just a big waste of time. Like syllabus week for example. Couldn’t we just read it on our own and figure it out? Like we did get into one of the top universities in the world….

    SO yeah needless to say I feel you. I am looking forward to this class in the sense that we can honestly say or do what we want. Write how we really feel and not for some cookie cut image. Amen to that.

  3. Hey Katherine. Not going to lie, as I started reading the first third of your blog entry I was thinking, “Okay, pretty standard post, nothing too crazy here”. And then that second half of your blog post was pretty awesome to read. It felt like a rally, and basically, I was really impressed. Your no-nonsense attitude is inspiring. And I completely relate to having different parts we slip into. For example, I have had a writing class where the grading was pretty subjective and based on what the teacher thought of us. I’m not proud, but every day, I slipped into “bullshit Steve” mode and proceeded to whore myself out (personality wise) for an A. Not worth it. Also I loved your sentence about the effect of alcohol on estrogen. I laughed.

  4. I really enjoyed the freedom of this post, the way you use parentheticals (that IS a word, though Word Press clearly thinks otherwise!), and the way you reveal different aspects of your personality. Your point about needing a minute to arrange your thoughts is well-taken, too, and reminds me of Susan Sontag’s, “you, but smarter” comment. Maybe something to sit with as you write your draft: What counts as “bullshit?” I agree that it’s out there in droves, AND I think each of us might identify it differently…so what it is to you might also help you get more precisely at why you write. 🙂

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