The Guilty Party

Monday, August 18, 2008

There is no why

Several days ago one of the fine participants on YouWriteOn posted what I assume was a note of frustration leavened with an undercurrent of levity on one of the message boards. I hope he doesn't mind if I quote him here.

You love writing. It's a great hobby.

Why did you ruin it by trying to write a novel?

I can certainly empathize with the sentiment. Mark Twain wrote somewhere (his autobiography? I will accept any and all assistance here) that a person will gladly pay good money to indulge in an activity, but turn around and offer the same person payment to do the same thing and it cannot help but become a drudgery. Or something to that effect. And if I might expand a bit on Mr. Twain's excellent bit of human observation, I would go so far as to say that all it takes is the prospect of payment, the expectation that what one is doing is bound, one of these glorious days, to be financially recompensed to get the same negative effect. Seems a bit strange, but there is too much evidence supporting it to even bother arguing the opposite.

And so how do we get around this? How do we knock down the locked door of "payment" and find once more the sunshine that is Labour of Love?

You gotta forget about the why. There is no why. If you're doing it for a why it's a job. And since there are jobs and there are creative urges (or compulsions or manias or whatever word you want) and they ain't the same thing
, it's important to leave the why out of the equation, even if there really is one.

Cause if you don't the end result is going to be lifeless, all its marrow sucked out, all the joy gone bye-bye. And in order to put on these blinders, to succeed in this self-deception, I think you need to be at least a little bit wacko, at least in the eyes of the Normal People.

What started this thought trotting around in what remains of my grey cells was the movie
Man on Wire. It is about Phillipe Petit, the undeniably Not Quite Normal French fellow who, back in the 1970's did a bit of wire-walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. When reporters asked him why he did it, Petit's answer was "There is no why."

And wacko Frenchman though he might have been and from the evidence in the movie remains to this day, it's a damned good answer. Incredible acts of creation (and I do firmly believe that is what happened on August 7, 1974 in New York City) have no why. They don't need them.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.


lorrie porter said...

What a great philisophy for writing.

plumboz said...

Hi Lorrie. Thanks for stopping by!

Yep, I've got to say that for the past few years the hardest part of writing for me has been just doing it without the why running around in the back of my head. It makes too much noise.

But when I can banish the little poop life is good indeed.


A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.