A couple of years ago, in my usual exuberance for writing about writing instead of actually writing (which, when you think about it IS actually writing. #Winning), I wrote THIS POST on who I write for. I suspect I may have been high on the fumes of a certain passing bus.
But no. One doesn’t need to be high to be passionate. The act of writing is a glorious thing. Strip away the talking about writing, the worrying about writing, the worrying about not writing, the spoils of after-writing, the defeat of discarded writing, the hostility of dead-end and painting-yourself-into-a-corner writing, and, all the other writing minefields and rewards and traps…and you have this wonderful thing. You have WRITING. Just sitting and writing. In that moment when you are fully immersed in words, when you are no longer a person writing but something akin to the WILD MIND that Natalie Goldberg spoke of so passionately in her writing related memoir, a writer finds her bliss. He finds his Namaste with himself.
So why oh why oh why do we do it?
For that moment when we get utterly lost. When the clouds are not above our heads but in our minds. When the internal weather forecast is CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF IMAGINATION.
The day I wrote the WHO DO YOU WRITE FOR post in question, I wrote, ‘Mr. Kite tells me to be ridiculous. Whoever said writing is noble and pristine and honourable has to give their head a shake. Writing is a trip on a psychedelic bus. Mr. Kite reminds me to jump through hoops of fire and embrace the part of my brain that just plain doesn’t care about decorum.‘
What I didn’t quite get to is that we get to toss decorum out the window only when we are dedicated enough to do so. Writing is a practice much like meditation is a practice. You will never reach Nirvana if you don’t take it seriously. Conversely, you will never reach Nirvana if you take it seriously. There is a middle ground. It’s when you stop trying to focus on the prize that it comes to you.
The list of those I write for went something like this:
And in the post I made pretty strong arguments for each of the people on the list. I felt writing for those people made me an all-round writer. I mixed in the seriousness of the fat lady with the unorthodoxiness of Mr. Kite. (Please don’t call me on the unwordiness of unorthodoxiness. I have the ability to make up more words, and I’m not afraid to do so.)
But there are others I write for. Stephen King writes for his Constant Reader. Now, I can take a million trillion lessons from King. I think he’s one of the most exemplary character builders alive on the planet today. His people live and breathe…even the bit-part folk who step onto the stage momentarily to move the story along. But the one thing that always stood out for me about King was his conscientious remembering that he is holding the hand of the reader who opted to come along for the journey he’s created. King never forgets that he is not alone in his story. I always picture him sitting in his office, facing his glowing screen, and vividly imagining the hundreds of thousands of people crammed in behind him looking over his shoulder. He IS Nirvana while he writes. He seems to have the ability to simultaneously write for that imagined CONSTANT READER and write for NO ONE at the same time. That’s the space between TAKING IT SERIOUSLY and NOT TAKING IS SERIOUSLY. That’s him NOT focusing and attaining the prize. You can’t listen to the reader as you write, because the reader is not yet there. It’s hard to hold the hand of a person who is not yet beside you. But King does it. My god, does King ever do it.
Yes. I write for Mr. Kite. He tells me to have fun, to let go and escape into a story with utter abandon. And Lucy? Well, she is like Mr. Kite. I put a lot of importance into being silly in my writing, into free-falling from a precipice and just seeing where the day takes me. Lucy and Mr. Kite help me to walk the forest of tangerine trees. I need them. Without them, I’d be too serious…I’d be trying to force Nirvana.
Yes. I write for little Charlie Bucket. Again…because Charlie had nothing and dreamed of wanting more. Charlie is something I give to every character I create. Hopeless characters don’t find golden tickets because they don’t find the coin. Little Charlie fulfills the magic kernel of desire that every character must have. Without it, what is the point. And NOW? Well, I have my own little Charlie Bucket now…so I write even harder for Charlie these days. Last June (2014), my daughter named her second son CHARLIE. Mr. Dahl would be so proud.
By God, YES. I write for the Fat Lady. I will never ever stop writing for the Fat Lady. Let’s reiterate my love for Zachary Martin Glass, shall we?
“Listen, I don’t care what you say about my race, creed, or religion, Fatty, but don’t tell me I’m not sensitive to beauty. That’s my Achilles’ heel, and don’t you forget it. To me, everything is beautiful. Show me a pink sunset and I’m limp, by God. Anything. ‘Peter Pan.’ Even before the curtain goes up at ‘Peter Pan,’ I’m a goddamn puddle of tears.” ~ ZOOEY GLASS in Franny & Zooey
Zooey is like me in many ways. In his love for the world around him, that is. And if writing for the Fat Lady is good enough for Zooey, it’s good enough for me.
To copy more from my previous WHO DO YOU WRITE FOR post, here is another FRANNY & ZOOEY excerpt. This one hits the nail on the head as to why we should do everything we do for the Fat Lady.
‘Seymour’s told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Waker. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn’t going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said that they couldn’t see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady.’ ~ Zooey Glass in Franny & Zooey
We should write for the Fat Lady because we should always always always WRITE OUR BEST WORK. We shouldn’t care if anyone ever sees it. We should write our best work whether it is to end up in the bottom of an old sock drawer or on the New York Times Bestseller List. Where it’s going after it is written is completely and irreversibly irrelevant while you’re writing it. Write for the Fat Lady and you will shine like the shiniest of shoes.
And now, back to King. And the reason for my addition to my WHO DO I WRITE FOR list.
I write for YOU. You make me want to be better. You make me want to hold your hand and take you on a journey. You make me want to change the world.
I write for ME. Because there was a time when I thought I wasn’t supposed to be here. Now I feel compelled to bear witness. Life is beautiful. Even in the throes of heartache and pain, life is beautiful. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that fact. I write for me to write of pain and to write of healing. The struggle is the life’s blood of creativity. What would life be without the exploration of both pain and joy? I like this bumpy and tumultuous ride. I aim to write my way through it and to write my way out of it.
Always explore and reevaluate the reasons you do what you do. I write for so many reasons. Mr. Kite is both the most important and the least. He tells me to be ridiculous. And you, dear reader…you tell me to be deathly serious. That’s a good mix. Just as with life, and everything else, writing is a healthy dose of yin and yang.
Be like King. Write for yourself while you’re writing for your Constant Reader. Don’t cater to either. Don’t focus on either. Allow your vision to blur in that magical middle place where they are the same person.
Come on…take my hand…