Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy National Day on Writing!

Today is the second annual National Day on Writing. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), it's a day to celebrate writing in its many forms. Why? According to the NCTE flier:
"Because we, as a nation, are writing like never before—through text messages and IMs, with video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even with traditional pen and paper. Whether it is done in a notebook or on a blog, writing, in its many forms, has become daily practice for millions of Americans."
As part of the celebration, we TeachingAuthors are addressing the question: "Why do I write?" In the series kickoff post, JoAnn shared how she writes "to remember and to uncover the truth—not only in stories but also in me." Then on Monday, Mary Ann described how she writes "to figure things out." I write for the same reasons. But when I thought about my answer to the question "Why do I write?" the first thing that came to mind was a quote from novelist Padgett Powell:
"I knew I was supposed to be a writer; I had made that declaration in the closet of my soul." 
When I first read these words, they struck an immediate chord in me, in part because my earliest writing was done in a closet. Literally. I was around 12 or 13 years old at the time, and struggling with the turbulence of adolescence combined with family discord. Something deep within told me I needed to write, but I had to do it in secret. Since I shared a room with my younger sister, I had very little privacy. So after she fell asleep at night, I sat on the floor of our bedroom closet with the door shut, writing under the light of a bare 40-watt bulb. I wrote page after page, trying to make sense of my feelings and my life. Writing became my life preserver.
Over 25 years after my closet-writing days, I came across Padgett Powell's words in Susan Shaughnessy's Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers. Like books of spiritual meditations, each page of Walking on Alligators contains a quote followed by several paragraphs of reflection. At the bottom of each page, Shaughnessy shares a suggestion for action or a question to ponder.

In her reflection on Powell's words, Shaughnessy says:
"You don't 'become a writer' because others say that you have written well.
You become a writer when you tell yourself that this is what you are.
If you have fundamental self-honesty, you will then write. You will carry out the activity you have linked with your deepest identity."
And that is, at least in part, why I write: because it is an activity that I have linked with my "deepest identity." What started out as a way to deal with adolescent angst has evolved into a creative outlet for me. I admit that there are times when I get frustrated with the publishing world, and consider giving up fiction writing. But I can't imagine living without writing. It's too much a part of me.

What about you? Why do you write?

Writing Workout
Celebrating National Day on Writing

Why not celebrate today by writing your own piece in honor of the National Day on Writing? Then contribute it to the National Gallery of Writing. Perhaps you'll share your own essay on "why I write." Or you can submit a story, poem, recipe, email, blog post, even audio, video, or artwork. See details here for instructions on submitting your piece. After your done, please come back and post a comment about it.
Blogosphere Buzz
  • Want to keep the celebration going? Check out the National Day on Writing Live Webcast today between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EDT. The event "will highlight local celebrations and compositions from the National Gallery of Writing. A wide range of authors and writers will be featured during the webcast."
  • In an interesting coincidence, blogger Catherine Denton also talks about Padgett Powell's quote this week on her blog, Winged Writer.
  • This week, Newbery-medalist Sharon Creech talks about how she uses her writer's notebook on her blog, Words We Say. She even shares photos of her doodles!
  • Our thanks to blogger Christie Wright Wild for honoring the TeachingAuthors with the "The One Lovely Blog Award" on her Write Wild blog today.
Happy National Day on Writing and Happy Writing!

5 comments: said...

This is a lovely post, and so inspriring! Thanks for taking the time write it and for sharing it. I can't wait to sit down and work out a response to "Why I Write."

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for your comment, Callie. If you post your response online, do come back and share the link.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I was a closet writer too!

B. A. Binns said...

Why do I write - because there's so much going on inside my head, and talking is just not letting enough of it out. Somehow, putting things on paper, or on the internet, seems to make it more real, and pulls the ideas out of my brain to leave room for something new.

And there is always something new!

Carmela Martino said...

Glad to know I wasn't the only one, April.
And B.A., I agree--somehow I think so much better with pen in hand. Thanks for sharing!