A few weeks ago, immersed mid-draft in a new novel, in the back of my mind (there’s always something going on in the back of my mind) I wondered why I was writing.
The above of my mind (which is pretty reticent these days) responded.
“You write to prove you’ve lived.”
I didn’t care for that use of the past tense.
As 2018 draws to a close, I reflect. It’s been an unwell year for me, and Mortality has invaded the back of my mind. I hear his raspy whisper every day, quiet and insidious. Pains, micro-organisms, rogue cells, and wrinkles flourish. They multiply and converge into lab results, black and white imaging, and professional opinions.
In fact, it’s been a hell of a decade. Most of it’s documented in words on cloud drives and electronic devices, un-shared since 2013. I’ve always felt it important to keep a record when something notable happens. Just not sure why.
Some days I believe, as I’ve been told, that if I share, others might benefit from reading about my experiences. Feel a little less alone in the craziness of this world. Find encouragement that if we persevere through difficulty, things will get better.
But that kind of thinking implies responsibility. A tacit obligation to fulfill an uncertain mandate, clamber after a vaguely self-important goal, under the guise of ‘helping others’. And I’m not sure any of it’s true. Do I have any answers? I certainly can’t prove it.
Nope… although I’d like to think of myself as a generous person, that’s not why I write.
On other days, I hope to launch a linguistic volley that’ll smack millions in their hearts and imaginations with such riveting passion that they’ll clog the internet with pre-orders of my next great work. Once I’m rich and famous, life will be perfect.
But I know better than to invest my precious free time at a keyboard on account of that wisp of a dream. I’ve already tried it, and it doesn’t happen simply by writing.
Then, on the days when I actually really and truly do sit down and write, manage to catch a verbal slipstream, and transport into that blissful flow of words fleshing out concepts, I think I write for the high that comes from raw self-expression.
On any of those days, the perception of ‘successful writing’ depends on how much of the story I tell. And which side I emphasize. Because it’s all posturing. It’s just words.
Why do I choose to tap on my phone or keyboard at this moment in time? Hit the “publish” button? Print those PDFs? Continue way past bedtime because I’m on a roll and there’s so much to say?
The above of my mind is correct, as usual.
I need to prove I’ve lived.
Right now, I need to believe I’m making good use of my life, more than I need to breathe. And proof requires an audience, so you’re it. I want you to know that I’ve lived.
When my body causes me to wonder how much time I have left here, writing seems more important than it did three years ago. Yet I’m doing less of it, and sharing it has gotten harder. I’m not as resilient as I used to be, and am not sure I want to know what you think of my words.
If I put it out there, in the process of writing about it, perhaps I’ll discover that I have lived fully. I’m not sure I’ve been my best and bravest at all times. Or often enough. Or even when it mattered most. But words testify that yes, I showed up, I made choices, and tried my best to look the consequences square in the eye.
I’m not sure there’s much more that any of us can do.
So cheers to you for stopping by, and thank you for reading.
We make each other real.