So there I was light years ago, a little zygote floating about the highway of PICK YOUR PERSONALITY TRAITS HERE. However, none of the exit ramps appealed to my forming sense of self until this sign popped up out of nowhere. Even though I couldn’t read I liked the look of it, so I took that exit and absorbed all that it had to offer.
How was I to know that WHY means a life of asking why?
As I moved from zygote to kid I wondered WHY and wanted to understand everything and as deeply as possible; to stand in the light rays to get answers to the WHY of everything that I could see and some of what I couldn’t. It wasn’t always fun asking why. Adults often gave me the universal answer: because.
“Because I said so.”
“But why do you say so?”
“Because I am the adult. Stop asking why.”
“Do adults stop asking why?”
I got quiet about asking adults WHY.
Today I am an adult and answer my own WHY questions to the best of my ability. Like today: a big why popped up when I noticed how long I’ve been writing this blog, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I continue to write here. Being a writer, I interviewed myself and have transcribed — verbatim — my responses:
WHY a blog: at the time it seemed a good place, a little corner of cyberspace where I could challenge myself to write, where I could set up a disciplined process so that I’ll do more personal interest writing more often, and as a way to learn more about myself as I write.
WHY do all that in a blog? The blog is just a vehicle, and one that I can have some fun with since a few people read it now and again and provide comments. Comments are great and often make me think things I might not get to on my own. As for the writing, well, two reasons: there are things that happen, that I observe or experience that I have feelings about that I can only express through writing. Other times, writing helps to clarify what I think and feel: I might not know that I have a view about something until I write about it.
WHY is that? Hmmm. There’s a whole physiological/neurological explanation for that I’m sure. It’s simply not possible to consciously process all of the impressions the mind takes in from the world around me and so when I write, I find that the process pulls things up and out, helps to make connections that just thinking about them does not always do. That’s partly because the physical act of keying engages a different part of the brain than does thinking or handwriting and partly the nature of what’s in my head from what I see and sense, so it’s sometimes quite interesting to start writing about a thing to see where it goes.
So the why for the blog: it gives me a writing place, a place to practice and with that, I get a few readers who comment and influence my thinking and writing.
I have named the work process, that bum-in-chair process of a writer as writering, and have written a bit about it before. Writering is a bit different than just writing, because let’s be honest: lots of people write who are not writers.
Some people enjoy this writering thing. Often, I do not. I love the research, I love having a final product. I love the alphabet and I love words. I love the moment when words line up in my mind to come out in a way that flow and dance and say something in layers and people talk to me about it and say they got something, or ask me a question that raises a million other questions. In short, I love parts of writering and they outweigh the parts I do not love. But I do not, on the whole, enjoy it in the way I enjoy other things, like clipping my toenails, or chalk screeching on a chalkboard or noticing people’s nose hairs.
Having said that, enjoy is perhaps the wrong term: writering is not something I enjoy and writing is a thing I feel I need to do and let me just say this about that: I have questions about whether writing, for me, is a real need or one I made up.
And I can be really dumb about it sometimes on those rare occasions that I talk about it, like last night. There I was, talking with a friend and we talked a bit about art and expression and the conversation touched on either her sabbatical or withdrawl from all of the things that she used to do, like writing. I then asked a very dumb, dumb, question of her, about her writing. I asked her if she had found her voice.
I could have kicked myself. Right there in concourse, as we sat in Holt’s Cafe.
WHY did I ask that? What a dumb question to ask. Everyone has a voice: whether they choose to give expression to it through writing is an entirely different question and if they do, how that voice changes over the years is another question, and whether that voice marketable (if that’s what the writer wants) is another question and not exactly up to the writer but editors, publishers and ultimately, readers.
I still haven’t answered WHY to writing. Maybe I don’t need to anymore. As I think about it, maybe it’s a sensemaking activity. Maybe it’s not for a single reason at all. Because sometimes, writing is a job, done easily: articles, stories, papers produced, edited, published.
Sometimes, writing is a great solitude, shared with monkey mind and a million other voices in your head including that loud voice of the internal critic, along with a fear of failure or success.
Other times, writing is a simple act of taking words from the inside to get them outside for no reason other than the act of expression, and to free up space for new things inside, which today, is a good enough answer to WHY.