Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why We Write*

*--Otherwise known as the other Big W Question

I’m re-reading a lovely collection of successful writers’ accounts, called WHY WE WRITE. It serves as a nice break between revisions, and for some reason I believe I deserve a break.

I enjoy the take of these incredibly talented and phenomenally successful folks on why and how they do what they do. From my humble perch, I recognize the process, and feel closer to some than to others.

It was something Armistead Maupin said about the “why” that struck not only a nerve, but turned the light switch to illuminate, at least for me. I quote:

I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

Life’s journey is understood in stories. In fiction we can organize the twists, and make the hairpin turns be more than pointless moments of extreme anxiety, but part of the whole. Everything fits, all for a reason, and endurance is heroic.

I also love that Maupin used the word symmetry. I’m a sucker for symmetry. I had spent many years working with traditional textiles, and getting comfort from their use of symmetry.

18th Century embroidery from Karabagh

I have a writing friend who is a master puzzle-maker. Puzzles work this way as well; everything fits, and one thing ties to another. The anxiety of solving a puzzle, persevering while mulling the clues, can be exasperating. But in the end every square is filled, everything in place, and, to use a famous quotation from Robert Browning—

God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.


  1. Sounds like a perfect break. I have a similar book from WD with some of my favorite authors talking about their writing journey. Vijaya

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Mirka! I'm definitely going to have to look this one up. I love hairpin turns and symmetry myself.

  3. What a beautiful piece of embroidery. I'm another who's a sucker for symmetry. I liked your post. ((hugs))

  4. I never thought about writing that way but it does explain us to ourselves. Definitely.

  5. Haven't read that book, but I've read of artists saying they paint to explain "myself to myself." I'm reading a collection of essays written by writers called BETWEEN FRIENDS, and loving it!

  6. I enjoyed that book! I just finish Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I've been wanting to read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, but I will have to order it from Amazon.

  7. It sounds interesting. I really like these kinds of writing books more than the how to this or that kinds. They inspire me and keep me at it.

  8. Oh this looks like a great book. The tapestry is stunning too. Thanks for sharing this recommendation.

  9. I'll have to check out this book. You're right, Mirka, endurance is heroic. I love that phrase.