Why write?

Peter’s writers block made me wonder why we write in the first place.  Why indeed? Many answers quickly came to my mind; 1) I write because I can – because I learned how to; 2) I write because I cannot notdo it – like Peter seemed to; 3) I write because I must outwardly share what lies within – like I am so compelled to do.  Still, do I write for my own sake or for you, the reader?  And in the end, does it matter why I write and to whom?


How can I even begin to answer such questions?  First, let’s marvel at what writing is: this most amazing invention – the apogee of human’s capacity for symbolic meanings.  With only these A to Z’sand a few grammar rules, we get to describe the reality that surrounds us and to give it a layer of meaning that doesn’t exist in the physical world. In writing, we may express what we -and others – get to perceive, think, and feel.  Ask any psychologists or anthropologists, historians or post-modern scholars, and they will confirm that writing is the super-power of homo sapiens sapiens.  The man who knows – and knows that he knows – became a civilized man the day that we committed to writing the ways we perceive the world.


In other words, writing is a powerful act!  Writing is not merely meaning-making and the labeling of the physical world; though that is powerful enough in and of itself! More importantly, writing is the very act of reshaping the world to our image – of changing a blank page to one exposing our inner selves, our concerns, our very ideals.  There is nothing in the page that constrains what is to be written…  Only the writer decides.  The blank page is pure freedom.  And yet it is agony too, because that page requires from us an unparalleled commitment to individuality.  What we choose to put on that page is the sum of who we are, filtered through what we choose to write about and how we address it.  The page is also fundamentally social as soon as it shared, because it becomes an extension of ourselves embodied in the physical (or virtual) reality – ready to be judged mercilessly by others.  Described like that, no wonder a writer gets blocks?!  So take it easy on yourself Peter!


Am I sometimes afraid of this power?  You bet’cha!  My life would be much easier if I didn’t write, if I wasn’t compelled to take a stand.  Yet writing is one of the most powerful means of action that we still possess in our post-modern world.  With each word I choose, each subject I explore, each logical argument I build or train-of-thought I follow, I empower my individuality.  Hence, through my writing, I keep at bay the countless forces, much greater than myself, that aim to force me into conformity.  Or at least, I tell myself so…


So if this is why I write – to be my own person, with control over the meaning I choose to assign to my surroundings and experiences – then what does it mean when I suddenly can’t write?  Does it mean that I am losing control?  Does it mean that my fears outweigh my desire to be known as the unique snowflake that I am?


When the fear to be misunderstood rises to such a level that I feel stymied in my writing, I take a long deep breath.  I go back to asking myself: why am I writing?


Again, the answers flow: I write to find myself, to discern my essence, my nature.  I write to capture my fleeting impressions, my (maybe precious?) observations. My words are my rebellion.  They are my emergence.  I write to build a bridge between my conscience and yours…


Recently, I’ve been quite silent on this blog.  I am writing my memoir and it is taking all my literary bandwidth – and then some.  It is the story of how an ordinary baby girl transformed into a social philosopher; told through her Quebecois upbringing and personal ordeals.  I write every morning: sometimes I feel elated, sometimes I sob.  Either way, I delve deep into how and why I became who I am.  And I wonder: when I’ll be done, will I be free from my past?  Is knowledge really power?


I am making peace with a difficult past.  Like the phoenix, I am rising.  Yet I realized last week that the man who inspired me to strive, the man who set me on my path, the one whom I tried so hard to please – he’d now never understand what I am trying to accomplish with my words.  That tribute I am writing for his influence on my life, he’d consider it a parting insult!  This realization merely silenced me again: it hurts so much to know that some minds are closed to anything butwhat they choose to believe.


Still, I march on.  I reveal.  I rejoice in the act of writing, in how it makes me feel.  Both powerful and vulnerable.  Alive to and yet slightly removed from the beauty and messiness of existence.