Why We Write

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Keyboards are less romantic than a good quill pen. Or a pen at all for that matter. There’s nothing especially enchanting about the click of a modern keyboard. Even those unwieldly old typewriters have them beat in that regard.

Yet for the most part, they are our tool. No longer does a writer sit upon a thick leather chair and dip their quill into fresh ink as heretofore unimagined wonders etch themselves across the clean white page directly from that writer’s imagination.

It’s a lot more head-scratching, start-and-stop bursts of keyboard mashing, and the occasional slide down whatever rabbit hole of google links begins with your subject and ends with your distraction.

The style can be forced, of course, but who has time for that?

The question could be asked, why bother?

In fact, that very question was asked of me quite recently, or something rather like it at least. A good friend and colleague was wondering about whether they should continue to write, struggling to keep their head above the cold flood waters of their present self-loathing and doubt.

Those are a couple of traits which have not abandoned writers into modernity.

It’s tough. It’s frustrating.

Occasionally, it’s infuriating.

If my friend wanted me to talk them into keeping it up though, their bet was off the mark. I did, of course, tell them how much I enjoyed their work—that was true. Beyond that though, all I could do was wish them luck.

Trying to quit?

Yeah…we’ll see.

It may be a good decision to take some time off, but I’ll put it in ink…sorry, ‘.doc format’ right now—you’ll be back. Most likely, you’ll be better for the time off. In some ways at any rate.

It all depends how long it takes.

I don’t expect it will be long.

It doesn’t begin and end at the keyboard, after all. That’s just the easy image. It’s also the questions that pop up in everyone’s mind, and how in yours they turn from questions, to postulations, to weird ideas, to full mythologies. All in a moment, and how you’re left with your fingers twitching for the moment you can type it all out—or screaming into the voice-recorder of your phone in some god-forsaken alley, ignoring the perturbed expressions of the passersby as you struggle to get it all out.

It’s in the way you turn things over in your head—turns of phrase, or conversations past, present, or future—how you play things out, stop and rewind, and do it all again.

Again, and again, until it’s right.

It hurts when it’s not, and it walks beside you all day reminding you of the unloved monstrosity you have created and are now responsible for entirely.

Of course, when you get it right…well, to capture that feeling perfectly would be to find the words we’ve all been looking for all our lives.

Then, there are the times in between those others. The times when we learn, and work. When we see red ink and get a thrill, and ask for more and more not to justify our own decisions, but to hone our art—to sharpen our tools.

These are the times when inspiration does not rain from the sky, and we find ourselves before an empty screen writing about why we write rather than what we’d meant to write.

Never mind all that.

You may stop. You may question if you should. That’s natural, I expect it happens to most of us at some time or another. But if it’s in you, you won’t escape it. And when you feel it again, remember where you left your pe—fuck.

-Brad OH Inc.

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