Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why Write

By Jodie Cain Smith

Why do I write? The answer begins in early April 2003.

Employed as a puppeteer (that’s an entirely different story), I had spent three weeks driving Savannah’s Veterans’ Drive watching the Iraq War protesters do their thing. Mostly students at SCAD, they waved signs and shook their fists as I drove by in my Ford Taurus. Then, one afternoon, I almost hit one with said Taurus. Dressed in a white toga, the protester stepped in front of my car brandishing a sign that read, “Who would Jesus bomb?” My first thought was, “No one, Jackass!” My second thought was, “Brake! Brake!”

I pressed my brake pedal just in time to avoid catastrophe, but felt a tinge of dissatisfaction. My husband was with the 3rd Infantry Division near Bagdad, Iraq. Nearly eight weeks had passed since I’d heard his voice. I was struggling with being a tough Army Wife, exhausted from worry and angry with everyone and everything around me. I needed somewhere to place my anger and fear.

I parked in front of the Savannah Morning News office and marched into the lobby – a woman on a mission. “You are giving the protesters a lot of coverage, but no one is speaking for the soldiers’ families. Our story matters, too,” I loudly accused the first man I saw.

“Why don’t you write it then?” was his response.

“Fine! I will!”

Thus began my writing life.

I had no experience, no training – just stories to tell, passion to fuel my words, and a Sports Editor nuts enough to give me my first gig. For thirteen months I wrote the column “Married to the Military” until I couldn’t squeeze one more complaint, accolade, or camo-related anecdote from my keyboard.

So, now, why do I still write? Why do you write?

Looking for a simple answer, I turned to my friend Google. According to legitimate sources, Lord Byron claimed, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Steven King described his desire to write as a path to happiness, a way to enrich his readers’ lives and his own. Gloria Steinem stated that writing is “the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

Perhaps George Orwell proposed the most insightful explanation in his essay Why I Write stating all writers fall under four possible intentions, “sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose.” Then he cautions, “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”  

So, maybe the answer to, “Why write?” is not simple at all.

My writing may not make others feel good, increase my online followers, or inflate my bank account, but life, the simple acts of living, still affects me, filling me with laughter and rage on a daily basis. No longer satisfied with my true-life musings, I now work to turn my frustrations into fiction. These stories, this life, must come out. I’ve got a bigger car now. I could really do some damage. Therefore, I write.

1 comment:

Leigh Stevenson said...

I loved this story. True life is full of great stories, isn't it?