By Alex Raley
Faced with the frustrations of writing, I ask myself, "Why write?" Does anyone care that I write; aren't there legions who write better; is there anything new to say; shouldn't craft be perfected before writing is attempted; and what will become of all those printed words anyway? Shouldn't trees be saved and this nonsense of words on paper be stopped? The simple answer is that I cannot stop. My writing is not an addiction. Writing is my sustenance. I write to sustain life, to assure myself that I am here, that something in my life has meaning, if only for me.
My writing comes primarily from my own experiences or observed experiences, though one soon learns that writing stalls if it only retells the facts. Even memoirs need the emotional impact of the writer's imagination in pulling facts together in an interesting, cohesive manner. This is clearly demonstrated in Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Wind, Sand and Stars and Francine du Plessix Gray's Them. These authors' imaginations construct such powerful words that we flip pages as much for the writing as for the story.
Fictional writing is not so much a retelling of experiences as it is the creative reconstruction of experiences, often experiences not related in any way. Recently, I began a story with a prompt given to workshop participants. The prompt related to nothing other than the dialogue that arose from working it out. Later I tied the prompt dialogue to a fictional situation, one all of us have experienced or witnessed many times, in which the protagonist angers his wife by flirting with a beautiful female at a party.
When the wife reacts negatively, the protagonist decides he will do the walk if he is going to get all the talk, but then I was stuck. Where would the story go from that point? A visit with friends caused me to remember a situation in which the wife of a guy we knew left him for a woman. So I finished my story by having the beautiful girl take off with the protagonist's best friend's wife. In some manner, each element of the story is from my experiences. I tried to bring them together in a new way.
Writing poetry comes from my love of word sounds. From the time I was old enough to remember, there has been a word of nonsense syllables that rings in my ears. The word, if it is a word, seems to have no origin, except in my head, but I love the sounds. They excite me.
Poetry wants to clip along with interesting sounds, creating rhythms and cadences of their own, but poetry also wants to speak to that indefinable something deep within us that makes us who we are. I struggle to bring these elements together, most often without success, but the need for sustenance is strong. I cannot stop writing.