I saw memoirist extraordinaire Patricia Hampl on Sept. 28 at Drury Lane Books in Grand Marais. How lucky for me that she was here the same weekend as I was! Her books have been so influential in my own career as a writer.
Anyway, she mentioned the George Orwell essay “Why I Write.” This made me think about my own path to writing and what I would say if I wrote a similar essay.
This is the first in a series of blog posts, because there are many reasons why I’m a writer and they all stem back to my childhood. So to start:
I write because…
I’m the youngest of three children. My sister is nine years older than me, and my brother seven years older. When I was really little I suppose I was fun to play with, but that quickly wore off as my siblings became teenagers. My siblings had their own friends and activities and were gone here and there. We lived in the country, in the days before cell phones and internet, so I was literally alone often.
I read a lot to pass the time. I also watched a lot of TV, like A LOT of TV. But books and TV shows have one thing in common: stories. Stories full of narratives and dramas and conflicts. On TV, the drama of the winners and losers on game shows. The crazy, fantasy, unbelievable drama of soap operas. The very real dramas of real life through news reports. I was alone, watching, and absorbing it all.
I used those storylines in my imagination when I played with my Barbie dolls. I took a cue from soap operas. My Barbies got into accidents, got married, and had affairs (though I didn’t really know what that involved — I just knew it was a bad word). Their loved ones died. And sometimes came back to life!
I think my endless reading and TV-watching helped me understand the power of a story. I got a sense of what made for a good beginning and good ending, and how tension and conflict could keep someone reading and watching.
Coming up: Solitude, and a Midwestern aesthetic is born.
Why do you write?