Why Do We Write? Part II

I’ll call this entry “Part II” because somewhere in the last two years of this blog, I vaguely remember writing “Part I”.

We have just come back from a short vacation in Savannah, Ga.  An elderly relative just celebrated her 90th birthday, and this was something we couldn’t have missed.  Funny, the weather down there was around 81 degrees, while the weather we left here in Atlanta was 95 plus.  Back again, it’s 95 with a projection of 98 tomorrow.

While I was away I had a lot of time just to think, and NOT to write.  And that brings me to this issue of why we write.  That is, those of us who have fallen into the pit of thinking we are writers or actually publishing our works.

Being around family, and a family that is not supportive of my writing (except some of the poetry that is ‘nice’)…made me think of the obstacles one faces as one tries to develop into a writer.  To say  they aren’t supportive of my writing is probably an understatement:  my first book, “A Seasoning of Lust” was  full of erotica.  I am sure they would have seen it (if they read it) as a ticket to their particular Hell.    Fortunately, I have become tougher than to bow to their particular literary standard.

But this is just one aspect of what we stumble across when we decide that perhaps we are writers.  For a number of years, I was on an erotica site, learning some basics of writing and how to critique other writing.  It was a necessary step and a good one, but it also limited my choices as a writer.  I had to sum up some of the influences there, and there were quite a lot of things to sum up.  Some writers were hacks.  Some wrote horrific extreme bdsm works that fed their own sexual urges, some wrote some good and expansive erotica.  But it all was tailored to erotica, and if you hankered for something broader, different…well, you had to leave or adjust your interests.

I left.  I left after a few years, but there are writers there I remember fondly and with good reason.  But in a way, erotica is a trap.  Perhaps we grow out of the theme, realize there is more to writing and life than our genitals.  Or other people’s genitals.

There are a couple of friends there still that seem frozen in place.  They are wonderful writers, and they learned a lot from that particular site.  But they write the same things over and over, or perhaps with some nuances of difference, but come on….how many different ways can you describe the ‘act’?  Of course, the best there do so much more….layer this particular theme with other parts of interest, but in a way…at least to me….they could be doing more with their writing.

One fellow in particular has developed to such a level that his writing is generally praised.  But it’s preaching to the choir there, and unless he finds the courage to strike out and take himself more seriously….he will short change his writing.  He knows this, but for some damn reason, he doesn’t see just how good he is as a writer.  He goes far beyond a writer of erotica.  Or could.

I have no real answer as to “Why do we write?”.  I barely know why I do.  But over the years, I have realized it is an art form that allows me a lot of expression and freedom.  It has also pushed me into a maturity that I don’t think I would have come to without this form.  And I have gained a lot of confidence with my writing.

I don’t suffer fools silently anymore.  I use my words…and some of them bad ones.

I’m working on two manuscripts this summer.  “White Cranes of Heaven” which is purely poetry, and “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”, which are mostly funny and poignant stories that are close to the bone.  Bill Penrose, the wonderful man and writer who does the production on my previous two books, told me something early on when I first met him:  “Write with an eye to the truth of it all, and damn the naysayers.” I don’t think one could get better advice for a new and wobbly writer.

“Memories of a Rotten Childhood” will not sit well with my birth family.  Tough.  They don’t read my books anyway.  But they are good fodder for the memories because they were part of the mix, and I am following what Bill said.  They will recognize themselves because it can’t be helped.  They were part of the building blocks of childhood.

Being ‘truthful’ to your experience is important:  you are weaving stories of memorance, and in some cases, they will strike a resonance with others.  That has impact because drawing those lines to each other makes for a stab at our collective humanity.

Maturing in any case means breaking other’s concepts about you.   You take chances but honor  the vision you have or are developing, whether it’s of the past or the present. You begin to embrace your values and realize they were part of the process of becoming independent.

In any case, it’s relying on your own developing standards and finding the courage to ignore those who would shut you up.  Perhaps we write because it gives us voice in a particular way.

Lady Nyo

From the wip:  “White Cranes of Heaven”, to be published 2011.


The moon sits moored

In a midnight sea,

Clouds sweep her face

Shading a pale, wavering beacon

As she tugs at her moorings

And floats

Across the upended bowl of Heaven-

Into the harbor of dawn.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

September, 2009

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12 Responses to “Why Do We Write? Part II”

  1. Margie Says:

    Nice to see you back! Hope you had a good time in Savannah.

    Try and stay cool – it’s hideous here.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    And hideous here…..I can’t remember a summer like this in 40 years!

    Thanks for writing and keep close and cool!

    Will write you an email soon.



  3. Malcolm Says:

    Here in southern Australia we are having a long and unusual cold spell – Ice Age on the way? – in July when August is our coldest month. I take no notice of climate idiots; I know when the highest rating doona is no longer sufficient to keep me warm in bed with the window open! But to return to writing, as Kurt Vonnegut said, if you’re a writer you have to write. To do it truthfully is to be true to yourself. Family can have their own opinions – they’re welcome to them – but they don’t have to be ours!


  4. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Malcolm!

    what is a doona?? New word here….

    I can’t get my head around July/August being the coldest months…send me some cool, will you?

    Yeap, ol’ Vonnegut is right: it’s a compulsion that you can’t avoid. And as for family, well, they are college educated, but their religion gets in the way of a lot of things…not just reading ‘strange’ (to them) stuff.

    LOL!… It takes years to realize that other opinions aren’t necessarily ours, and that’s a good thing in general. They are good and conforming people, but this fundamentalism gets in the way of a lot of things….intolerance is the bloom on the rose. Jews and Muslims and Christians….little difference here in the fundies.

    But I think, those of us who plunge on as writers, sharpen our skills in conflict with others perhaps. That ‘march to a different drummer’?

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Malcolm.


  5. bren Says:

    Hi Jane,

    Glad you made it back!

    A doona is a duvet or down quilt I think. I once upon a time worked with Aussies.

    I loved your story of Dylan. I was a bit like that as a 12 year old but changed a lot by the time I was 13.

    Who know why humans do anything we do? And even if we figure out why we do something today the reason we do it tomorrow may be different.

    Love Alluring Moon. Of course, I live by the ocean and love it and your imagery awakens memories.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Bren!!

    I was tempted not to come back from the ocean….but the animals here…Animal Farm…would have tracked me down and eaten me.

    I am very envious of your situation….living by the ocean and where it’s not so hot is heaven to me. You lucky dog!

    Doona: got it! Thank you! Thinking of a doona or a duvet or a quilt in this weather makes me nauseous. LOL!

    Yeap….time changes the relationship of the ‘whys’ in our lives I think. Maturity gives an edge perhaps….or another rationale.

    Alluring Moon: I have to play with the punctuation a bit I think with that one. Or delete some words….not tanka by any means, but there is always things to rearrange in a poem….they are never ‘perfect’ as they come down the chute…they always can need some rework.

    Thank you, Bren…for reading and leaving a comment.



  7. Malcolm Says:

    You have your answer to the question! I don’t know the etymology of the word, but of course a ‘doona’ is a ‘duvet’ is a down-filled quilt to keep one warm in bed on a cold winter night. It’s been so cold that the CPAP machine that Stella uses for her sleep apnoeia, which has inbuilt heaters for its breathing tube and its water tank, could not cope, and blew cold air into her lungs. For the first time ever, we had to close the bedroom window to prevent the temperature in there from going down to 5º C. The CPAP machine won’k work properly below 10ºC, we have found.
    Of course we all know that “anthropogenic climate warming” is making the whole world hotter – like hell we do! It might be hot in your summer, as it is in ours, but it’s colder here in winter – what was your last one like?


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Malcolm….

    thanks for the heads up. Doona a new word, and now I can use it!

    Your winter is very, very cold….and our summer is very, very hot…with no rain. We are in a deficit again….

    Last winter??? The coldest on record. Two complete weeks of 14 degrees F. and people died here….our neighbor almost died as he got locked out of his house by accident. He was found by our neighbor and survived…barely.

    The weather seems to be extreme all over the planet. The mid west here is getting hit with extreme rains…and NYC is suffering 100 plus heat.

    The south expects hot weather, but not this hot. And it’s been about 30 days with straight over 95 degree weather….plus. Today it was 98…and all the rain predicted disappears.

    Today, I went outside to put in some impatiens, and the soil was so hard from lack ‘o rain I had to put them in pots….couldn’t get the shovel to budge the soil. This is very unusual. The only thing that seems to like the heat are my tomatoes…and this year they are over 8 feet high. But they aren’t turning red fast: they mostly remain green for a long time. I think the lack of water is partly to blame. You can spray a hose on it, but nothing works like rain…and a good dousing of it.

    Hope you and Stella are well, and can remain warm. Here it’s the opposite problem. I think the death toll is going up across the country with the heat from what I have read. This hot weather started in the spring, and it’s more like August weather. There is no relief in sight, either.

    I got heat stroke in Savannah on Tybee beach Saturday…and have been fighting it for a week. I am weakened by the constant heat and can’t shake this dizziness. Drinking water and power aids, but nothing seems to help long.



  9. Malcolm Miller Says:

    If you read the scientific literature on climate, weather, geology, and extreme phenomena, you’ll probably find that while records for temperature, floods, rainfall, snow, and cold are frequently broken or new ones set, as far back in history as you can read, the average changes only very slowly in geological time, wherein a million years is as the tick of a clock. The great thing about humans is that while they can’t change the weather or the climate, they CAN adapt to a heat wave or an ice age – and often have had to! Sure, extremes lead to a few extra deaths, but our species survives.
    In winter we long for summer’s warmth; in summer we long to be cool! It was ever thus. So we invent air conditioning and home heating and swimming pools and thermal clothing. Humans can be irritating, but they’re clever devils! Oops! Shouldn’t mention devils here!


  10. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Oops….I resemble that crack. LOL!

    I believe we are in a ‘ice age’? According to some scientists.

    Well, ice would be welcome right now…..it’s 103 yesterday, and about 98 today. And high humidity.

    Regardless what we invent…..our ac unit in the bedroom is struggling to cool the large room, and I am VERY grateful for its labor. Until I see the bill.

    Another summer of this and we will have to spring for central air….and damn the costs.
    In 40 years here I have never seen the likes of this weather. Even a little rain would be very welcome.

    Haven’t you Aussies just come from a terrible 10 year drought?

    Sweating Lady Nyo


  11. Malcolm Miller Says:

    That’s true, but ten year droughts are not uncommon in Australia. The 19th century had ones just as bad. The trouble is, our lifetimes cover so short a span, and our memories are so bad, that every divergence from the wholly fictitious ‘average’ has us squirming and complaining that things ain’t like what they used ter be. The truth is, they never will be, and never were. Change and variability is universal and ubiquitous. Humans are great grumblers, as Maslow said, and as he also said, if you compensate for all their grumbles, they’ll simply invent meta-grumbles!


  12. ladynyo Says:

    LOL!! Good words here, Malcolm…..Meta-Grumblers!!


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