No Wrong Way to Write

I think it is fascinating when people have delightful origin stories for various things. Once, when I was little, while playing barefoot around the pile of wood we had in our backyard, I stepped on a rather large, dead crow.  To this day, I have an overwhelming and rather irrational fear of birds. Everyone loves a story like that. Not only does it serve to as a source of entertainment, but it also gives people a glimpse into why you are the way you are. These stories open you up, allowing you to explore some of the reasons behind interesting character quirks or eccentricities.

People fawn over couple’s “how we met” stories and are intrigued by your “how I got this scar” story.  Not only are such tales good for pulling out at parties and wowing captivated audiences, but they represent that some solitary event in your life affected you in one way or another. And it affected you enough for you to carry it with you for weeks or months or maybe even your whole life. Such stories are powerful; they can be life-changing.

But I have one qualm with such stories. People don’t always have them. Sometimes, there is no hilarious or heartbreaking moment that led you down a particular life path. Sometimes, you don’t know why exactly it is that you hate strawberries, you just do. Which brings me to Paul Auster’s “Why Write.” According to Auster, he writes because he didn’t have a pencil for Willie Mays to sign an autograph for him one day. From that day on, he always carried a pencil and “that’s how he became a writer.” It’s too neat; too tidy. While that story could be absolutely 100 percent fact, there is still a sense of impossibility that I associate with it. Now, that sense of impossibility, in my humble opinion, has two implications.

One: It makes for a wonderful story. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a certain charm to such stories that make people smile and sit back thinking how great of a story that was. It also adds to Auster’s idea of writing to tell stories and pass tales on from person to person.

Two: It puts pressure on us to come up with such a tale. We begin to feel that we need a charming anecdote to tell at parties about why we wanted to become writers and then we panic when nothing comes to mind. This is troublesome to me especially, since I am severely lacking in such an incident that led me to writing.

But, now that I am reflecting on it, I needn’t be troubled by this fact. While Auster’s story is a good one, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you can’t be a writer if you don’t have a similar one. I think what he is saying is that there is no wrong way to be a writer. His origin was not driven by a love of words or by writing his first book at age 10. It was because he missed out on getting an autograph from his favorite baseball player. What is magical is that such an incident that was completely unrelated to writing led him to be a writer. It just goes to show that people can and do write for many different reasons. It is inclusive and far-reaching. And that is why I love it.

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