Why I Actually Write

Before I start, I just wanted to mention that, after seeing a clip of a movie from the ’80s with teen Jennifer Connelly in it, I recalled how nicely she grew up after that.  In 1986 it would have been creepy for me to think of her that way, but, now that she’s almost 42, there’s only a 15 year age difference, and divorce is just a phone call away, Jennifer.  Make the call.  Yeah, I’m in my mid-t0-upper 50s, but, as they say, age is just a number.  Then again, decrepit is just a word.

Why I actually write is not to be limited to 33 words in some writing contest that I’ll never win, where I lose out to someone talking about a “word-pail”.  With all due respect, what the fuck is that?

Why I actually write is because even though I usually feel like doing NOTHING, almost like it’s an activity, a goal, unto itself, only to be accomplished by the elite of “do-nothings”, I can suddenly pick up a book that’s originally 150 years old, namely “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, and get lost in it.  I want to do that someday.  I want to write a book that someone will get lost in 150 years from now.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are people among any “blogging circle” that I’m in that have written books, good books, but I ain’t one of ’em.  A few stories, some sass and trash on this “website” (bloggers: ever a little star-struck at the fact that you have a website, one that doesn’t involve you walking around naked, even if only 14, 83, or 356 people read it?–I am) (oh, and if you do have a naked website, why are you keeping it separate from your blogging friends?), are all I’ve accomplished so far.  So this holds as much relevance as a teenager saying he’s going to be a millionaire by age 30, or an addict saying they’re going to make something of their life.  So, let’s see me or them take the first steps and do something towards the goal.

Whining aside, why I actually write is that someday, I want someone to chuckle at a passage I wrote 150 years before, that impresses them the way that these words from “Great Expectations” did:

We Britons had at that time particularly settled, that it was treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty. 

or these words:

So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.

or this passage, which, if read by budding romance novelists, would surely discourage them in their efforts to describe passion in a new way:

The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible.  Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.

followed later by this advice to him by the vengeful Miss Havisham:

“Love her, love her, love her!  If she favours you, love her.  If she wounds you, love her.  If she tears your heart to pieces–and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper–love her, love her, love her!”

or this passage, where two men talked about a deceased person (Pip’s sister, who brought Pip up “by hand”)

(which I have since observed to be customary in such cases) as if they were quite of another race from the deceased, and were notoriously immortal.

or this part, where Pip wonders if he shouldn’t look with compassion upon Miss Havisham’s

vanity of sorrow which had become a master mania, like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in this world?

which got me to thinking about the fact that I wear my unhappiness with career, romance, finances, the dreadfully boring scenery, nightlife, and culture, and often harsh weather of the part of this flatland which I live in (that I should have left long ago, but won’t leave now until at least my daughter grows up), that I wear that unhappiness, and the depressed state it sometimes leads to, like some sort of badge of honor.  Like an addict wears their worthlessness against their enemy of addiction like a badge.  Though “admitting the problem” is the first step, do we really need to throw it in people’s faces?

Well, I could go on and on about why I want some dork in 2162 to underline passages in my book (better make it 2165 if we’re going to add 150 years to me self-publishing a book), like I did with Great Expectations, but instead let’s talk about his old buddy, Wilkie Collins, for a short moment.  Wilkie isn’t nearly as famous now as Chuck, but back then he wrote some popular stuff, and is credited as helping to invent the mystery novel.  One of his characters in “The Moonstone” wonders

whether the gentlemen who make a business and a living out of writing books, ever find their own selves getting in the way of their subjects, like me?

If I had dismissed the name Wilkie Collins as a “nobody” and not bought this at the library book sale, I would have missed this gem:

Study your wife closely, for the next four-and-twenty hours.  If your good lady doesn’t exhibit something in the shape of a contradiction in that time, Heaven help you!–you have married a monster.


Your tears come easy, when you’re young, and beginning the world.  Your tears come easy, when you’re old, and leaving it.

or this interplay between a young man (Franklin) and an old man (Betteredge):

(Franklin): You choose a cigar, you try it, and it disappoints you…You throw it away and try another.  Now observe the application!  You choose a woman, you try her, and she breaks your heart.  Fool!  Take a lesson from your cigar-case.  Throw her away, and try another!

Betteredge claims that he thought often of this while married to the late Mrs B, but:

the law insists on your smoking your cigar, sir, when you have once chosen it.

In more modern times, there’s a little-known Pulitzer-prize winning book from Kiowa Indian author N. Scott Momaday, “House Made of Dawn”, which has a passage that I consider one of the most powerful I’ve ever read.  It’s a recollection, a soliloquoy of sorts, from a woman named Milly, a passage which Momaday himself italicized:

…The earth where we lived was hard and dry and brick red, and Daddy plowed and planted and watered the land, but in the end there was only a little yield…it was always the same, and at last Daddy began to hate the land, began to think of it as some kind of enemy, his own very personal and deadly enemy….sometimes his eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open in disbelief, as if all at once he knew, knew that he had tried everything and failed, and there was nothing to do but sit in wonder of his enemy’s strength.  And every day before dawn he went to the fields without hope, and I watched him,…turning to stone even as he moved up and down the rows.

Daddy loved me; it wasn’t anything that he could put into words….but I knew it.  It was a deep, desperate kind of love; there was no laughter to it at all.  ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you’ve got to get away,’ and his eyes were almost wild with the thought of it.

(and she went away, and married Matt, and had a baby named Carrie):

And when Matt went away and did not come back, I gave all of my love to Carrie; it was all right because of her, because of Carrie….(they went to the playground and Milly pushed her in the swing and Carrie)

laughed and laughed, Carrie laughed.

    And Carrie was four. (And do you see, dear blog-readers, though it leads to horrible sorrow, that I want to someday write, in a novel, a simple line like that, one that puts horror, dread, thrill, or excitement into a reader’s mind with the simple fact of it being at the start of a paragraph, the author not needing to have Milly say, “then a horrible thing happened that broke my heart forever”, no, all he needs her to say is “And Carrie was four”, and we know our hearts are going to be broken, just not the exact path of it.)  She goes on (and we’re close to done with this post, I think):

…She seemed to know what was happening to her….She seemed not afraid but curious, strangely thoughtful and wise.  To me that was the most unreasonable, terrifying thing of all: that my child should be so calm in the face of death.  She seemed to come of age, to live out a whole lifetime in those few hours, and at last there was a look of infinite wisdom and old age on her little face.  And sometime in the night she asked me if she was going to die.  And do you see how it was? There was no time for deceit, and I didn’t even have the right to look away.  “Yes,” I said.  And she asked me what it was like to die, and I answered, “I don’t know.”  “I love you, Milly,” she said; she had never called me by my name before….

Will a writer ever write something that powerful, or something as bizarre and clever as in Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”:

“She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.

Yes, I’ve met people like the old woman shot by the Misfit–haven’t we all?  And don’t they need to be written about?  That’s why I write.

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8 Responses to Why I Actually Write

  1. Mrs Fever says:

    Item #1: Jennifer Connelly used to be gorgeous in a very voluptuous kind of way. She still has a nice figure, but I wish she had a little more meat on her bones.

    Item #2: “…oh, and if you do have a naked website, why are you keeping it separate from your blogging friends?” I *do* have a naked website. At least, it’s partially naked. Part of the time. Please feel free to peruse the part-time partial nudity posts any time you wish. There’s no Dickensonian guilt involved.

    Item #3: I’ve read Great Expectations several times throughout my life, and each time I read it, something new stands out to me. When I was younger, Miss Havisham used to seem like a caricature of contemptibleness. But now, after seeing a few scheming sociopaths reduced to their shriveled core of evilness in old age (don’t ask, don’t ask), I’m starting to think Dickens was incredibly accurate in his description of her acidic, aged decrepitness.

    Then again, as you said yourself…

    Age is just a number. Decrepit is just a word.

    • Jennifer’s face is gorgeous, even when she’s hanging on the arm of that bastard she’s married to. And I forgot to include in my post the fact that I now expect to be referred to as “The Aged”. You’d know what I’m talking about, but anyone who hasn’t read “Great Expectations” may not. It’s funny which “classic” books I haven’t read–I had to buy “Anna Karenina” because I’d never finish it before I had to return it to the library.

  2. I love the way you hone in on the biggest moments. You made me feel something through your feeling. Well done.

    • Thank you, Anna. I’m sure they felt that way as they wrote passages such as these, don’t you think? Or was it just so effortless for some, that it was just another part of their writing? Even (name your favorite author) must have known when they wrote something particularly memorable, and probably got some good feedback on it (though not so quickly as during the Internet Age, I wouldn’t think).

  3. Peaches says:

    Have you started writing your novel yet?

    • No, I am a total faker when it comes to writing a novel. I have the idea of where I want to go with it, but that’s it. So far all I’ve written are some stories, essays, rants, book reviews, and whatnot here, plus one detective story that I need to rewrite. I’m happy with most of my stories or essays that I’ve put on here. I’ve never figured out how to go back and forth between comments and blogposts that I’d like to reference, so I’ll just mention that my favorites are probably a couple oldies: “Bicycle” from Nov. 15, 2010, and “Old Friend” from Jan 9, 2012, as well as a story I wrote at work one day: “Painting the Town Red” from Jan 27, 2012, and my contribution to a collection of effed-up fairy tales that my blogging friend H. E. Ellis is planning to publish for charity. My story is “Kristerella”, reprinted on my blog on Sept. 24, 2012. In my defense, I’m tired, or just a time-waster, when I don’t have my daughter around, and I sometimes get some reading done when she’s here but usually no writing. My energy level is pretty low and I tend to brood and worry too much to go forward with things. Anyway, thanks for stopping by.

      • Peaches says:

        I have lots of story ideas, but I get bored writing them down. I already know how it ends…once I figure out the ending, I tend to stop writing. I can’t say as I’ve figured out how to complete anything longer than a mid-length writing project either. I was just curious.

        My dad is a good dad too, and dreams of writing, but usually gets caught up helping us or his new wife or…one of the women and animals in his life kill his computer…and he loses it all. Poor man.

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