Recently I was asked why I write. Or what the purpose was behind my writing. Or some variation of that question. The gist was the same or close enough, okay?
It was Friday morning. I was sitting in a windowless conference room across from a couple of people I’ve come to like in my office–both known to be neat people. All three of us were in this tiny, seven or eight foot by seven or eight foot, neutrally painted room. With the desk chairs I don’t like. And while I’m thinking of it–what is with windowless conference rooms? As if some meetings were unpleasant enough they have to take away the windows. In addition to being a word person, I’m a visual person. I need to see. I don’t like windowless rooms. Far too confining. Combine that with a rotten meeting and it’s just a recipe for a lack of creative thought.
Thankfully this particular meeting, when I was asked why I write or its purpose, was not unpleasant. In fact, it was in all actuality one of the best hours of my work week. Excellent conversation–even if I was under scrutiny. …No, really. I mean it. It was a great meeting, great conversation. …Even if there were no windows.
So. The matter at hand. Why do I write?
I’m a word person, as previously stated. But I’m a storyteller.
Having had a life thus far that has been rather…rootless…words, books, stories, they’ve been my companions more truly than most people. Not all people, just most. I write for more than one reason.
I write because I like stories. I’ve loved stories since I was little girl. There’s a certain magic in them. Everyone and every place has a story to tell in one form or another. It’s just a matter of uncovering and conveying them. We are our stories.
I write because it can help others. There exists the possibility to teach and learn through the stories of each other. What I have experienced you may not have, but you can learn from it. Directly or indirectly. Or maybe you have experienced what I have, but your take might differ from my own. So we share and we learn.
I write because it helps me. I have a side project I’ve been working on since the fall of 2007. I’m telling the tale of my brother’s death. How it changed my family. How it changed me.
From the moment I was asked why I write, or for what purpose that I do, and from the moment I allowed myself to tell these previous strangers about this side project of mine, it’s been on my mind. For the last two days my brother’s death has been on my mind.
It’s not often that I think of what happened. It’s been seven years. It’s not that I don’t think of him. I just don’t think of it everyday. But now I am. And I’m thinking of how his death has made me who I am. Today I walked down the road of What Might Have Been. In truth, if he hadn’t died, if that January accident had never occurred, I would likely be married with perhaps a child of my own.
Instead, I’m facing my thirtieth birthday from a different point of view. Not bad, just different. I’m single. I have a cat…which is living with my parents because I had to move rather suddenly and he couldn’t come with me. I’m living with two guys–who, for the record, are great roommates. On an up note, I have determined, with that inexplicable sense I have, that this will be the year in which my career truly begins…and I have to be ready for it and all it entails. My personal life…well, I’m sussing that out, but it’s looking up definitely. It’s true the people I associate with have changed…again, but I do feel sure of these people…these ninjas so to speak.
But that feeling of rootlessness remains. That same rootlessness I’ve had since my brother died. And maybe that’s why that side project started. A method of re-self-discovery. I began writing about how he died. A motorcycle accident born out of an 83-year-old woman from Michigan’s inability to stop before making a left-hand turn. Of how it took DeLand PD four and a half hours to notify my family. Of four and a half hours that scared my mother. Of how she saw the lights of the emergency vehicles at the site of his accident and how she couldn’t go to him. Of how I saw my father cry for the first and only time in my life. Of how my ex backed me into a corner and wouldn’t let me talk about what happened; and how I learned to fight for myself.
The subsequent fallout from all this was the $500 price tag put on my brother’s life–the fine Volusia county charged this woman from Michigan for violation of right-of-way. The juxtaposition that exists between me, my mother, and my father of distance and closeness. Having to get to know my parents all over again because they aren’t the people who raised me–people so determined to have a hand in my life and the direction it took. Them having to get to know me because I’m not same daughter they raised–a little girl who wouldn’t stand up for herself and who could be influenced by others too easily. …And to make sure you don’t forget you need to smile in life, of the three hams and other copious amounts of food given to my family that required the storage space in the homes of two other families in addition to the space for food storage my parents had…because everyone needs to smile.
The truth that I’ve come to know about myself is that I was raised to be independent, whether I knew it or not at the time. I suspect I was raised that way, but never really took to it until I felt alone. I know I’m not, but sometimes it seems that way. It’s probably why I’m writing this now–a means to explaining to my new friends why I am the way I am. …And to my Big Boss, who all six of us suspect of trying to keep tabs on what his new-ish social media team is doing.
I write this story because I know I’m not who I was seven years ago. I write because I know there are other people out there who lost a sibling. And some may very well be in my shoes: the one who’s still trying to adapt to being an only child–a successful one–and who feels they’re not managing it well. And speaking of which–what is success? I trained myself growing up to think of success in terms of career–which I think I’m doing pretty well at. Or is it more family oriented–the getting married and having kids part–because really? I have a cat and I’m single. And at almost-30 I’m beginning to think my mother might just be wondering if I’ll only be thirty, single and the owner of a cat. She’ll love me, of that I have no doubt. But she knows I want more than that. And like any good mom, she wants me to be happy.
Truth? I’m not despairing for me. I like who I am–however flawed others might think I am. And there’s the story in the story. It’s okay to have such a huge, life-altering event happen to you. Success is still obtainable. Although I think I have a less-than-neat knack for pulling it off. Success still happens. Perhaps not in the way you might have thought. But it still is obtainable.
So. I write because there are an infinite number of reasons to. Because there are so many stories to tell. And stories within stories. Some have lessons and some are just for entertainment’s sake. I have both. And I will tell both. Chances are both will show up here. So maybe this post, at its core, is about letting out and letting go. Because really? Who else drives to Disney, turns around, drives back, orders Chinese food, comes home to her treehouse, watches the Walking Dead and writes some more? Someone who has stories to share with lessons and who entertains…or tries to.
Writers write because they know they’re not perfect and they’re willing to share stories. So. If I could go back to that meeting on Friday in that windowless conference room I would say to those two people not only do I write to entertain and with purpose, I also write for myself. Because the one thing about me that hasn’t changed in my almost-30 years is my need and love of stories–both to hear them and tell them.
…Okay really? Windowless conference rooms? Come on! They better hope I never reach the CEO’s office. Because if I do, there will be no more windowless conference rooms. Big stifling of creative, open thought.