Writing

[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Writing is the activity I am thinking of whenever you see me looking out the window when there’s nothing there, gazing at the empty fireplace, or having gone quiet in the middle of dinner. I may have captured a previously wild idea, and the issue of how to domesticate it requires my full attention. Or perhaps I have remembered some sentence I wrote, and based on what you have just said, I am trying to revise it, to perfect it.

Many times, however, I am considering the nature of writing itself. That is, what makes good writing different from bad writing? How can one group of words, strings of letters on a page, have tremendous power over us while another group bores us to death? Is the power of words objective or subjective? Does good plot always come at the expense of interior expedition? What literary traditions do I want to invoke, resurrect, or otherwise align myself with? Should I write fiction or nonfiction?

And, of course, Is writing what I am supposed to be doing? It is too late, however, to ask this question. Too obtuse. Did Mary ask whether she should be possessed by evil spirits? Did Ezekiel question whether he should record the fiery vision of four living creatures? One taken in by something greater than them cannot separate themselves from it. Reality overwhelms the construct of choice.

I cannot tell you why, but the idea and the creation of writing make up the substance of my mind. So, it is natural for me to think about writing, because writing is what my thoughts are. And so know this: when you read a book, good or bad, and you reflect on what makes it so, you are not only learning about that book or about writing, but also about me. This is true at least in the sense that I have most likely been precisely where you find yourself now. I have shared those same thoughts.

To know my thoughts is the only way to know me. Speaking is always filtered through some social facade, and public speaking even more so. But thinking is private; thinking reveals the self. And perhaps we can call writing public thinking, in that one’s private thoughts can be heard inaudibly in others’ minds.