Sunday, February 03, 2013

Why We Write

Rick Moody: Why I Write

Why do writers write? George Orwell once listed ‘four great motives,’ Joan Didion said she writes so that readers listen to her, and Terry Tempest Williams said ‘I write to meet my ghost.’ In Why We Write, edited by Meredith Maran, 20 acclaimed authors answer that question, and novelist Rick Moody responds to Orwell, Didion and Tempest Williams.

I abandoned two novels when I was in sixth grade. I got maybe 10 pages into each. One was about a kid who becomes vice president. I still have the weird little blank book that I used to attempt to write it. The itch to do my job goes at least that far back.

‘Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors On How and Why They Do What They Do’ edited by Meredith Maran. 256 pp. Plume. US$16. (Seamus Kearney)

Why do I write? To do better for myself than I am capable of doing with language, out there, in real time. To repair inabilities, to restore confidences. And, at this point, because I don’t know what else to do. I write just as I breathe and eat. Every day. Habitually.

It would be easier if I could say that one thing happens when I write, or, perhaps, that a number of predictable things happen. But the truth is that a great number of things have happened, over the years, when I have been writing, and that these things are unpredictable, hard to quantify, and mutable.

I guess I have now been writing, if I date my writing from the first time I ever rewrote anything, for about 33 years. Publishing books for about 20. Sometimes the writing is inspired or inspiring; sometimes it is destitute of anything but the need to keep working. I guess what I’m saying is that what happens to me is so variable that it would be kind of foolish to try to attach names to it. I do think, however, that just about whenever I am writing, or more accurately, whenever I have written, I feel better and more at peace as a human being. That doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that the literary product is any good

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1 comment:

Mark Hubbard said...

Broken link to the full piece, Graham.