Wednesday, October 16, 2019

why i write

I like the people who came to writing novels from working in newspapers. For them writing is a job. You get up at nine in the morning and you finish at 5. You put in a full day. You do your word count and you clock out. Stephen King says that those people who sit around waiting for the muse are amateurs. Writers write. Writers sit down at the typewriter, legal pad or computer and they write. All the writers who are popular and successful see writing as a no nonsense job and they just bloody get on with it. I like these people and I like this school of thought. I've met a lot of these writers and they are cool.

But this is not my way.

I see things differently.

For me writing is nothing to do with deadlines and word counts and getting the job done. For me a writer is a shaman. A holy man. A holy woman. A witch. A writer has been given a staff made from meteor iron and with that stick she scratches a message into clay tablets and the tablets are baked and they are put in a library and the river moves and the city fails and the library’s pillars fall and the clay tablets lie buried in the sand for four thousand years until someone finds them and reads them and understands. You are telling them a story about life and death and the meaning of life. You are talking to them across the centuries.

Spacetime in our universe began 13 billion years ago and it will last in our universe for many trillions of years and, depending upon the variables of dark energy, it will come to an end in a big crunch or a slow, silent heat death. If Einstein’s equations are to be believed everything we say or do has already been done. The equations work equally well backwards or forwards in time. The universe has already died. And we died trillions of years ago, forgotten utterly, our actions, words, thoughts, completely vanished into the void. This is why what the writer does is sacred. What you’re doing isn’t writing a meaningless string of words. You’re scratching a message in the sand in defiance of the tide and the abyss. You can’t halt entropy but for a moment you can strike a match and wave it furiously in the blackness. 

Look, look at this! The writer says. I am gone. We are gone. But we were here and we saw and we loved and laughed and we dreamed. We saw beauty and we experienced pain. And we were given a task by the ones who died next to us in the lifeboat: tell them about us.  

Yeah, I know, I just write hack crime novels who am I to talk? But that's the whole point isn't it? It doesn't matter what you write about, it's your attitude. Your words could be smuggled on toilet paper out of prison to one old friend or they could be texted to a million followers as you ride the subway car. It's what you think about the words that counts. An audience of one is still an audience.

So I don’t see writing as just another job. I don’t write to fill my word count. I am on a sacred fucking mission. I’m waiting for the goddess. Because I believe in the goddess. I believe in ghosts. The ghosts of the ones who went before and the ones who have not yet come. And I will witness against the beast. And I will defy the darkness and I will tell our story.

I take up my meteor iron and I scratch marks onto sheets of blank paper and what I do is consecrated.

And I will try very hard to make it good.