Why I Write

Like most writers, I enjoy spending a lot of time in my head. I reflect and ponder while watching TV, while sitting in the dark living room after my wife has gone to bed, and during the half dozen times I wake up during the night. A few nights ago, I thought about my friend who died the day before Christmas 2018. He was a good friend, a former colleague, and a co-author for a book. In the morning, these lines appeared in my head:

It is good to remember the departed

To wonder, to imagine and perhaps to forgive.

For no matter how long their lives

We can always give them one more day

I don’t know why this thought occurred to me and I have no intention of cleaning up the words or smoothing out the lines. The words simply captured a moment important to me.

Then my mind wondered to capturing moments and to the haiku poet Basho and probably his best-known poem. My favorite of dozens of translations is:

Listen! a frog
Jumping into the stillness
Of an ancient pond

To me this captures the moment as well as any moment can be captured. But there is more to my mental meandering. These are the last few lines of a poem about Basho by Cees Nootboon:

… See by the waterside the track of the poet

On his way to the innermost snowland,

See how the water erases it

How the man with the hat inscribes it again

Preserves water and footprint

Capturing the movement that has passed

So that what vanished is still there as something that vanished.

I don’t think moments can be captured any better than that poem either. And that’s what I thought I was doing when I write, but I might be wrong. The more time I spend pondering, the more I lean toward I write to create something that must exist, not something that needs capturing. What I write may not be much, like a tiny white flower in the dark vastness of space-time, but it contributes what I can contribute. I don’t try to capture something, but create something. That is why I write.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *