Trying to Explain Why I Write
not that anyone can explain why writers write
Initial Draft: 12 October 2000
Writing allows me to interact with the world. While that seems like a cliché anyone might use to describe his or her motivations, in my case it is a troubling truth. Without writing I would be more alienated, and more alone, than I am. Not that I dislike being alone, but being alone and being alienated can be frustrating.
In October 2000 I asked participants in a writing seminar to address the topic “Why I Write” in a brief essay. I have written about my motivations in the past, trying to understand why I feel the need to put words onto pages or computer screens. Unfortunately, my previous answers were incorrect or incomplete. I did not appreciate why I write.
I do not understand people; they are confusing. I do not understand abstractions without a great deal of effort. The world around me seems more like a movie than reality; I react the same emotionally to both. I am isolated.
Imagine hearing only monotone voices, void of any excitement, sorrow, anger, or love. You learn to listen to the words spoken, not the manner in which they are spoken. You also learn, through unpleasant experiences, that people do not always mean what they say. Sarcasm in monotone is meaningless. Without an ear for inflection, without grasping the clues tone, pitch, and speed provide a listener, the greater parts of human speech are lost.
Human interactions of the face-to-face variety are based upon more than words. There are expressions, gestures, proximities, and many more non-verbal components to communication. I study these elements of interaction, hoping to understand them better and to mimic them with some skill.
I hyper-focus on issues and interests, to the point of annoying those in my presence. I latch on to ideas, concepts, objects, projects, and people for a sense of stability and purpose. While others adapt to change, I find it generates a sense of panic and anxiety. As a result, in a social situation I locate a safe, quiet, predictable location and remain there. I try to remain in place so others can approach — and leave — as they want. I can address groups because the distance between an audience and myself provides security.
When I do interact with individuals, I am as likely as not to offend them. I do not have the social skills society expects, especially in business. Despite my best attempts, I frequently lack tact and subtlety. I know when I am about to say something improper, but I still speak aloud. There are moments when I want to scream in horror at myself, at what I say.
I could continue to list personality traits, attempting to explain how I experience the world, but doing so would serve no purpose. While there are medical explanations for how I am, none excuse my lack of skills. I am tired of acronyms and labels, diagnoses made after each new test. What matters is that I can write.
Writing is one form of communication I can master. Words on paper are clear and concise. When I write, I can edit and improve my thoughts. I can correct the mistakes I would make in person. Writing is my freedom.