Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why Do You Write

Originally published on my website 3/31/11 (www.lisalregan.com)

My brilliant, wonderful friend and writing soulmate, Nancy Thompson had a great blog post recently about why she writes which you can read here. She said she would be interested to know my own answer to the question: why do you write? My immediate answer is: because I have to. I thought about that—about why that’s my answer, why that comes immediately to mind. I think it is because writing is how I make sense of the world. It’s how I process things, how I talk myself in and out of things, how I resolve my issues, how I answer my questions.

How I make sense of my world.

As a child, pretty early on I had a lot of stuff to make sense of. I don’t want to disparage my parents in any way because they are all amazing people and they did a fabulous job but I’m a product of divorce. Now I don’t want to make it sound like I had it so horribly because I didn’t but the fact is that for a young child, divorce is hard. It hurts and all of a sudden your perfectly ordered world doesn’t make sense anymore and in your child’s mind it never will again. Plus for the rest of your childhood, no matter where you are, you are missing someone. My fiancĂ© came from a not-divorced home and I can never fully explain to him the lifelong sense of FRACTURE that coming from a bunch of divorces has left me with—how it affects so many aspects of my life to this day.

Again, I’m not saying oh-my-life-was-ruined-by-my-parents’-divorce. On the contrary there were great things that resulted from the divorces. (I say divorces—my parents got divorced and both remarried awesome people who were in my life for decades and who I consider my parents every bit as much as if we were blood-related, then one of those couples got divorced, there was a remarriage and another divorce etc. and so on). First of all I now have a number of (step/half) siblings who are some of the most fascinating, wonderful, kind-hearted, brilliant people I have ever had the privilege to know. I would never know them if the divorces/remarriages hadn’t taken place and my existence would be much poorer for it. I got more than one mom and dad and lucky for me, the people my biological and step-parents chose to marry are also some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. People who made me the person I am today, whose influences I am grateful for beyond words. Then there is the double Christmas/birthday presents, double family vacations, etc. Those are all awesome things about being from a divorced family.

On the other hand, when you’re very, very young and all of these relationships and dynamics are changing around you and custody battles are being waged and lines are drawn in the sand by various other family members and new people are entering your world and changing everything again—it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on in your world and where you fit. The other problem I personally had with the divorce thing is that I had lived in 10 different houses by the time I was eleven years old and by that time had changed schools a number of times. I’m not saying this is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone—far from it—I’m just saying for me, the impetus for my writing came from just being really confused about my world and my place in it.

I always kept journals—I kept a journal as early as the fourth grade and it helped me process all the changes going on. When I was eleven I started writing books. Actual books. I’ve always had trouble writing short stories. Apparently I’m just too long-winded. I was literally eleven years old when I completed my first book which I called “Black Summer”. It was somewhere around 140,000 words and had some very adult themes. I wrote it for a few reasons. One was for the escape. When the landscape of your life and your role in the lives of everyone around you is constantly changing, sometimes you just want to get away. I loved, craved the escape that writing offered. In this world I controlled everything. I could do anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted, be anyone I wanted. It was a place I could go where I was completely free and where I always felt good. It was addictive.

The other thing that it gave me was a constant. The writing never changed. It was always there and it was always the same. Good or bad, sloppy or well-written, long-winded or brief—it was there. Wherever I went, there it was because it was inside me. It never left me, never made me feel badly about myself, never let me down, never disappointed me, never frightened me. It always felt good. It was consistent. It was constant.

When I had no one to talk to, I wrote. When I needed to cheer up, I wrote. When I felt confused, I wrote. When I wanted a heady, euphoric rush, I wrote. When everything in my world was in disarray, I wrote. When I needed a release, I wrote. When I had questions, I wrote. It’s just the way I’ve always dealt with life so yeah, I have to write. Plus it feels good. It’s like a really great drug but it won’t land me in rehab, it won’t upset my stomach and it won’t lower my inhibitions and make me do stupid stuff. You can’t beat it.

That’s how I know that I’ll keep writing even if I never get published—because it’s in me, it’s what I do, it’s how I make sense of my world.

Also, now writing has brought Nancy Thompson into my life and she is truly one of the greatest friends I've ever had not to mention a fabulous writer and one of the most intriguing, intelligent and courageous women I've ever met.

Writing is good stuff. I think I'll keep doing it!

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