SOL#16: Why Write?


From: The Department of Lucky/Unlucky

Re: Backlog of Sentences

Dear Madam,

It has come to our attention that you have a number of writing projects languishing in folders across the internet, not to mention your computer desktop. We have one question for you: What do you think you are doing?



From: The blog of Karen A. LaBonté

To: The Department of etc.

Re: Backlog (And what business is it of yours?)

To Whom It May Concern ,

Some days your mind works faster than your hands. The keyboard is too slow and words dribble like molasses. I start something, but I know where it’s going, then I get distracted by something new.

This week, there’s a proposal to write, a five-page research summary for a submission, a Slice of Life blog post (ahem, i.e., this), a #clmooc #digiwrimo activity, notes of some new reading. But there’s a new article I want to read, think about, respond to. A new awareness of how I want to schedule my days. Tasks to take up for the cross-country move that’s coming down the pike.  So I write in fits and starts and some days, nothing gets done or finished– at least, as finished as a piece of writing ever is.

Right now, I’ve assigned myself a blog post tentatively titled How the Interwebz Helped Elect Donald Trump. It’s the first piece I’ve written beyond my dissertation that tries to put into words some complicated (to me) thinking about the web and its disruptiveness. It is coming together, but slowly. Doing this kind of writing for public consumption is new for me. Frankly, it leaves me fdivers-123286_1920eeling vaguely vulnerable. But it also feels important to me personally. I suppose that’s your question. Why write?

Because it is like a slow dive into deep quiet waters. Time slows and changes; I forget to eat. (Breakfast today came at 12:09 pm.) I am completely engrossed in forming the words that will tempt those timid thoughts out of hiding, or in dangling those thoughts slowly-oh-so-slowly so that words can find them, latch on.

Once, when I told my first writing mentor I wanted to be a writer, he smiled at me and asked if I wrote every day. Most days, I told him. He said that doing something every day meant that’s what you were. I didn’t believe him then. To me, being a writer meant being recognized by some world outside myself. But even when I was working as a writer, actually being paid to write, I didn’t feel like one. (Even though sometimes I was being paid obscenely big amounts of money to do it.)

Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And, I suppose now, how we spend our days tells us who and what we are.

Blogging calls me out of my wanting to be a writer. It obligates me to myself to be it. Not because I think anybody will read what I write– I’ve discovered this is not as important to me as being deep in the process of doing it.

This comes after a long time of being in training to do a particular kind of writing, about particular kinds of things. I didn’t think doing academic writing was for me. That is, until I started blogging again and challenging myself to write solely for myself. Now I’m starting to think I would love to do academic writing, and that I’d be good at it. That’s different than saying I need to do it because it’s expected.

Good writing comes because I love the mystery of thinking and words and the way they always make something new. That’s why I assigned myself the Interwebz-Trump blog post. I wanted to see what I could make of it– if I could really love that kind of thinking work.

So, to Whom It May Concern from the Department of Lucky/Unlucky, that’s exactly what I am. Lucky to be a writer. Unlucky too. Because it’s messy sometimes, all those unfinished sentences lying around. You never know what will come of them.


6 responses to “SOL#16: Why Write?”

  1. “[D]oing something every day meant that’s what you were.” Part of me like the spareness of the mentor’s advice, and part of me bristles against being boxed in this way. Feels like a pretty good goad to write more, though, in all the tangled fortune and misfortune of that process. Cleverly explored, Karen.

  2. I love reading other people’s explorations of being a writer, and what calls to them. Thank you. Your letter has been mailed with a CLMOOC stamp to some unknown origin where someone will read and connect … ’cause, that’s the way our world spins, Karen. I won’t even ask the question we’ve been asking here ….

    • Karen says:

      I hope we’re not becoming cliches with this little question of ours.

      I, too, love reading people’s writing journeys. Thanks for reading; thanks for hoping someone else finds the message in the bottle, maybe at a time they need to read it.

  3. Terje says:

    Very entertaining and insightful piece. I am still surprised that I have even started the writing journey.

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