My Writing Life: Why I WritePublished June 27, 2016
I have not written here lately. I suppose because I have been depressed and unaware of that until yesterday. I have been preoccupied with thoughts about my health and in particular my MS symptoms that have worsened recently. I’ve been bogged down with calls to doctors and appointments and procedures. And I have had difficulty sleeping, waking every hour and exhausted throughout the day. One morning recently, sitting up in bed with a first cup of coffee of the day, I nodded off and fell out of bed crash landing on the small chest of drawers beside my bed.
Depression. Clinical depression is not feeling down in the dumps or sad about something. Depression is not feeling. It is being detached to the extent that nothing moves us to do anything.
The question I wanted to answer when I wrote After the Dance, a novel that has become a play, was why some with chronic, progressive diseases pull their legs over to the edge of their beds and get up in the morning, and others do not. Why don’t some, who know life is not going to improve, but become more difficult, why don’t they give up?
The answer that came to me and I believe is true for all of us is DESIRE. Desire keeps us going, desire as simple as a tunafish sandwich for lunch keeps us alive for lunch.
When I don’t write for days on end though writing is the one thing I can do when I can do nothing else, I have to ask myself why. Here from my memoir Her Widow, letters I wrote to Catherine, my partner, the year following her death, here is an early letter in which I say what writing means to me.
Dear Catherine, I was crying when I lay beside you in bed a week ago, imagining my first hour without you, the days that would follow that and the weeks and months and years. I was 51 years old. I might live thirty more years without you. Twenty was certainly a possibility.
You said something I thought was strange. You asked me, “Why do you write?” I didn’t want to talk about writing. I needed words of comfort from you. “I don’t want to talk about that,” I said.
Today, a week later, I understand why you asked that question. I write to feel connected to something, to be in the good company of my imaginary friends and someone or something I can’t name or explain who whispers words to me now and again or shows me an image. Whatever or whoever is guiding me in those times is also good company. And I write when I don’t know what else to do, when I’m unable to read, watch television, or listen to music. When I can’t fall asleep. Writing is the one thing I can do when I can do nothing else.
Standing in the pool dumbfounded yesterday feeling no desire for anything, not even to lay out on the water and float, I searched my mind for one small thing I desired. I want to finish a play I have been working on for some time. I need an obstruction for my character to overcome or not. The drama needs a conflict.
I got out of the pool and went into the house to write. And today I am able to add something to this blog.