Before I started writing, I was a brilliant writer. Seminal. Transformative. Iconic. Then I had to use words and that started screwing things up pretty badly. I don’t know how it goes for most writers. For me, it’s like being chained in Plato’s cave, staring at the blank wall and knowing that the only words that appear there will be mere shadows of the original idea.
True, Plato’s allegory deals with reality and our limitations in perceiving it, and I’m talking about making the imagined real. So maybe it’s more like the difference between dreaming and then trying to capture that dream in words after you awaken. Why is the dream so much more vivid, so much more fascinating, so much more real than my telling of it? And why do all my story ideas seem so brilliant at the outset, but become so pedestrian once they are committed to words and sentences and paragraphs.
Why write at all? Perhaps it’s better to just continue to think of myself a brilliant writer without actually having to write anything down. That way I can continue to convince myself that if I ever did write, I would be really good at it. It’s a well-honed skill of mine. Untapped potential is better than disappointing reality. That way, I won’t be crushed to learn that I am, on my best day, only an average writer. That way, my ideas will retain their vibrant colors, their tantalizing sounds, their subtle textures.
Some guy named Steve addresses this here better than I. Check it out.
It’s like being chained in Plato’s cave, staring at the blank wall and knowing that the only words that appear there will be mere shadows of the original idea.
So why do I write? I write for a couple of reasons. One, deep down in the darkest recesses of my soul (Yes, my soul has recesses. Yours does too...), I hope that some day, I will publish something that will be popular enough that I will be able to do nothing after that but continue to write. I don’t mean J.K.-Rowling-popular, but successful enough to make a nice living. And put in a pool. And maybe add a home theater. And a new car, of course. And eat more Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. (What, you thought I was going to say bacon?) Sure, it would be lovely if 200 years hence, people would read my words and said, “Man, that Parolini dude [because they would still be saying ‘dude’] could really write.” But let’s be honest. Those folks aren’t going to pay my bills. Ah, confession is good for the soul. So that’s a reason. Here’s another.
I write to shut up all those damn voices in my head.
Yes I know how that sounds. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. And once I started having ideas for stories, I kept getting more. Now, I don’t have characters coming to me in search of an author. But I do have stories and dialog and small details and a bits and snatches of shreds and patches.
I can’t keep them all swirling around in my head. So I write them down. It seems to be the only way to put them to rest. One of these days, I am going to start sharing them with people whose last name isn’t the same as mine. And then I will write some more, and share those as well. In the end, whether they lead to fame and fortune or obscurity and poverty is immaterial. I’ve got stories to tell, man.