Writing is an Act of Love
At a training this week, a moment arrived in which I had to put down on paper what it was that I wanted to look back on life and say I did. Without regret. A purely honest and vulnerable question, and I couldn't help but write down a purely honest and vulnerable answer: to be a writer.
Why? our exercise asked. Why this thing?
I have so long been thinking about that answer ...
In graduate school, there were many discussions about what "made" a poet a poet, and from the pressures of academic expectations, most of those answers quietly pointed to "getting published." Sitting around workshop tables, we critiqued each other's work, submitted as part of the process, and congratulated our colleague's success. There was very little talk, if any, about the act itself, or why we did it. Although I relished the technical training and needed that excellent, well-informed teaching and feedback, I wished for a day when we could just sit and ask each other the question whose answer always seemed like a compulsion to me: Why do we write?
Yesterday the world learned of the death of Umberto Eco, novelist, essayist, and wordsmith extraordinaire. In an interview with The Paris Review, he had this to say about his legacy:
"I don’t believe one writes for oneself. I think that writing is an act of love—you write in order to give something to someone else. To communicate something. To have other people share your feelings. This problem of how long your work can survive is fundamental for every writer, not just for a novelist or a poet."
Those words were published in 2008, and I didn't read them until two days after I wrote down exactly the same thing on my paper: I write because love was shown to me and I want to share it with others. It isn't just the compulsion to get my words out. It is to hope that what I am feeling can be translated, communicated, and connected to other people who might feel the same way, or audacious thought that it is, benefit them. If I can do that, if I can succeed in it in some small way, then I can truly look back without regrets.
Read the entire interview here.