Why Write?Laura Ann Miller
Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2
“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”
I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal. Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.
I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.
Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.
The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.
But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?
What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?
The question remained: Why write?
And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.
We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.
I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”
She answered me quickly,
“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”
Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.
As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.
Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…
I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.
I have a goal now for my little board books.
That’s what they are. No permission needed.
If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.
Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM