A particular hashtag has invaded my Twitter feed recently. #whyiwrite. I’ve seen a number of reasons condensed to the pith of 140 or fewer characters and added my own to the jumble. But, like most things, this philosophical potpourri didn’t so much give me answers as it made me question.
When one makes the leap into writing for public consumption, if that writing is honest, if it reveals something of the writer’s self, vulnerabilities, pains, joys, experiences, and questions, feedback is inevitable. Some will laud, some will criticize, and many (MANY) will offer answers – what the writer should do, should have done, why she shouldn’t question herself, why she should be ashamed, proud, institutionalized, or hugged, why she is right, why she is wrong.
Here’s the thing. I don’t write for answers, and my writing probably isn’t for the people who have them – or believe that they do. I write to inform, sometimes. I write to pay the bills, when I can. I write to entertain, to provoke, to feel. I write to bring joy, to share pain. I write for the girls and women I have been. I write toward the woman I hope to become.
I write to share memories and lessons I have learned. I write the stories I see when I move through the day. I write to connect myself to others – more deeply to those present in my life, to touch the memories of those who are gone from my life, to say the things I was never able to say aloud, and to find a link to those whose lives barely brush the edges of mine.
I write to keep the precious pieces of the things I have lost. I write to inch closer to some sort of truth. I write when I can’t paint the shadows and shades, when the patterns no longer make sense. I write, not to provide or to find answers, but to wander down the paths of question.
I write to remind myself not to hide from loss or shame. I write in the hope that maybe by sharing something of myself, I might help someone else feel that it’s okay to be self-revelatory, that reaching beyond our own bubbles is the only way through human loneliness.
We saw a play at the local high school the other night. To quote my husband, Avenue Q is like Sesame Street on acid. There is a strong disconnect between the bouncy kid-pop tunes and the questioning, angst-ridden, and often cynical lyrics. But one thing stuck with me. One character drifted throughout the play, tossing away the gifts of friendship and relationships in order to focus on finding his purpose. Of course, it was only when he came back to the importance of those relationships that his purpose became apparent.
What is my purpose?
That question followed me through the play, and into the parking lot, and home to my bed. On the surface, purpose is easy – family, friends, loved ones, etc… But, of course, it isn’t easy at all. Where are we headed? What is most important? What happens when our purpose hurts others? Or ourselves? Does our purpose in life shift and change as we grow, as our circumstances evolve? How many parts does it have? How many layers?
I still don’t have the answers – not even close. But, I think that’s part of it. I think for me, the questions are part of my purpose. The answers are often irrelevant. It’s the exploration, the digging that turns up the things I wasn’t even seeking.
And this is why I write – not to find or to give answers, but to create more questions.
What is your purpose?