Why We Write, or at least, Why I Do

12/09/2011 at 3:02 am (Uncategorized, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

Dear you and me,

I want to write mysteries like Raymond Chandler wrote mysteries. Chandler created an LA I look for even now in the shabby streets of Hollywood. Or in the oiled ooze of Long Beach or La Jolla’s shadier sections…not that La Jolla has any. His world isn’t there. It never was. But I see it anyway because Chandler made us all see it that way.

I want to write horror that trails its fingers along the spine as Shirley Jackson’s did. Shirley was not a happy woman. She ate and chain smoked her life away writing her strange and perfect sentences.

I want to write poems as precise as Emily Dickinson’s and as lyrical as a line by Dylan Thomas. Emily wrote like silver bullets shot from a small caliber gun, her words drilling precise holes in the mind and in the holes bulleted worlds of intense meaning. Emily’s subject was “Eternity,” her name for divine reality. Her subject is my subject.

I want to write literature that lasts as Vladimir Nabokov’s will last. I want to write like Flann O’Brien, wee coy disappointed man that he was. I want to leave something of myth in the world. An Oz of my own.

In short, I want to write in any genre as one of the greats. Instead, it has always been my curse to suffer “for my art” as sensationally as Poe ever did and yet never to be Poe. The hell with it. I write anyway. I wrote Houdini Heart. A surprise to me: supernatural horror. It just came and I let it.

I do have this: that I write at all is all my own doing. I am not the spawn of greats or semi-greats or even half a great. My stepfather could barely read much less write. I never saw a book in my mother’s hands. There were no books in my houses. (Imagine what Cicero would have said.) So many Navy houses and Duty Ports when you get dragged around by a pint-sized sailor and a frantic woman who’s just biding her time until she thinks you’re old enough to get along without her. I could always have gotten along without her, and though she was almost there, I did get along without her. And yet I wrote my first book, a fantasy, when I was four. Come to think, I was also a publisher at four. I wrote and illustrated my little book; then, like Emily, made a tidy packet of it and hid it. I don’t recall much before the age of 7 or 8 but I do remember that. I have a strong feeling there’s a good reason I forgot everything else.

I have a stronger feeling that writing, at least for me, is a place to go just to be somewhere I belong.



  1. Diane said,

    You are the spawn of THE GREATEST of everything! And what a blessing to have had the opportunity to come into a family who provided you with what you needed to become who you are and who you will continue to grow into.

  2. kilongfellow said,

    You saw something I saw too…a long long time ago. I chose to be born an unwanted child. But not poor and not abused. Simply neglected. It hurt. It still hurts. But it was also a great gift. No dogma to shake off. No opinions I think are my own. No “family” I owe all I am to. Just me and what I have made of myself. For better or for worse, I am what I am and that’s All what I AM.

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