I like Joan Didion’s “Why I Write”—her prose scattered but purposeful, her language abstract but relatable. I like her allusion to mental pictures and that she articulates how her sentences develop structure from their details. I think similarly to Joan. Almost identically, in fact, in this context, so I find myself tangled in hers as the two ‘Why I Writes’ sit side by side.
Thinking in pictures is kind of my thing. I’ve faced the schizo, hallucinogen-user characterization too just for saying it. “Certain images do shimmer for me,” Joan writes, asking, “what is going on in these pictures in my mind?” When I think, I see pictures—sometimes of memories, sometimes of lettering, sometimes of scenes and dialogue I imagine. An essay I wrote last year explored them, the pictures in my mind, “the things your mind sees when your eyes look at the tangible,” I wrote. Ten pages, the essay became, of exploration of these ‘shimmering images’ I saw all the time.
Joan’s essay captured me, I think, because she wove threads of my imagination, of a few questions that already existed, into the why-I-write context. She discussed life as a non-academic living in a bubble of academia. She touched on compulsion to look out the window, to watch the leaves falling from the pear tree, to focus on the peripheral. I’ve never thought of these things I’ve felt, these ideas that nag at me, as reasons to write, but I have thought of them and thought they might matter.
So I appreciate Joan’s scattered answer to “Why I Write” because she validates my own scrambled mind, encourages me to think critically, to contemplate the wealth of variables that might construct my own response to the question. Writing is weird: it’s irritating, introverted, invigorating, it’s a lot of things. And I think why we do it is complicated.