Archive for January 17th, 2013

January 17, 2013

Why I write–again

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There are brief moments in life that put everything in perspective, breaths when the purposes behind your passion become clearer than life itself.

We had computer trouble at our house last night. I couldn’t log in to the online school to grade papers, couldn’t get on to my e-mail to check for contest replies or fact-check follow-ups, and I couldn’t get on to this blog site. Also, Netflix was down, which caused some minor turmoil in our family Star Trek routine.

It was exactly the lull I needed.

As frustrated as I was at not being able to immediately do what I wanted to do, I began remembering the days before I had a computer of my own. It was a privilege to have an hour to myself where I could actually type out what I’d written out in long-hand earlier that day.

Before that, there was only the college computer lab, and before that, a word-processor that I used and used and used. That was the machine that processed most of my papers for my high school Sterling Scholar book, my scholarship essays and high school writing competitions, my fun fiction that no one else ever saw.

In those days, I kept my journal in a spiral-bound notebook. I wrote in pencil in words so tiny that my brother gave a magnifying glass to my husband when we were engaged.

“That’s so you can read her letters,” he told him.

I have a box in my basement filled with relics from an even earlier age: poems on green manuscript paper, illustrated in crayon; folders with school papers, sometimes adorned with foil stars for writing work I had done exceptionally well on; my fourth grade school journals; certificates for grade-school writing contests; my fourth-grade story, critiqued in a small workshop hosted by Ron Carlson.

My first poems wander around in that box. One of them–a short, sugary-sweet concoction about rainbows and my mother–made my mom’s eyes shine. I gave it to her in second grade, when my favorite books to read were built around words with short vowel sounds.

In the middle of last night’s musings, I realized, again, why I write.

It’s at least partly to make my mom’s eyes shine. To make my dad proud. To help my husband care for our family. To bring joy, if I can, to other people.

I wrote poetry when my oldest daughter was barely walking, poetry about her eyes and her smile and how she made me feel as though I’d swallowed the moon.

I began writing very short stories for her when she got to be in preschool, and then, when my second daughter was born, I tried a young adult fantasy. It sits, forlorn and forgotten, at the bottom of a drawer in one of my filing cabinets, but I promise myself I’ll pick it up again someday.

When we lived in North Dakota, I started accepting journalism assignments as a way to help my husband supply needed funds for our family, and as a way for me to connect with people outside my home. I wrote and self-published a middle-grade fantasy novel as a gift for my second daughter. I blogged about North Dakota and took my daughters on trips all around the state.

After my son was born, I self-published a very short booklet on what it’s like to be a freelance journalist, mostly for friends and family who had more questions than I could answer.

Last night, in the middle of my frustration, it became clear. I write for the people I love.

That realization hit me most poignantly when I got a phone call from my sister. My grandfather passed away yesterday.

Few people ever saw his writings, but he wrote, too. He wrote seriously about what it was like to grow up in mining community. He wrote silly fiction pieces about how to make elephant soup (and why you would want to), and some combinations that I knew were based in fact but stretched as tall as Paul Bunyan.

My grandfather was a World War Two veteran with a purple heart, a fisherman, an electrician, a joker, a photographer. A writer.┬áHe wasn’t perfect, but he helped shape my life.

In the end, it’s the subtle influences of all the people I love that make me what I am. I want to write to entertain them, to inform them, to influence them in positive ways. I write because it’s one way I can serve them. I write because their eyes shine when I do. I write because they’re my family, and they seem happiest when writing is a serious part of my life.

I write, with or without the computer, because I love.

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