What Is It That Makes Us Want to Write?
by Jack Dermody
When we write, do we really expect folks will thrill to read us? To pay money to read us? If so, we might belong to the same tribe as musicians who hope people enjoy listening and then eagerly throw a bill bigger than a dollar into the tip jar.
Imagine a world where people’s opinions do not matter to us, and neither does money. Then imagine what we would write instead of what we usually produce.
Hmmm. Yes, that’s how I do write. And yes, most people don’t care what I think, and the profits could never feed my children. Except, that is, when I wrote textbooks for a salary back in the 1970s.
I’m enjoying writing this blog post because I’ve met a few people who also post here. It feels friendly. But let me tell you the two real reasons I scribble for the public. First, I crave to communicate. I am no different from a 13-year-old who has discovered Facebook. I have an innate hunger to get my thoughts on paper and out into the world, just because. Second, written words are profoundly sacred to me.
Let’s dwell on the sacred. If you grew up in a religious family, you might remember how missals and hymnals and the family bible looked and felt, especially if you encountered them at a very young age. The covers were leather, often rich and shiny. Gold leaf may have glistened on the outer edges of the pages. Inside, delicate, sometimes translucent paper contained beautiful fonts in black and red, also decorated with swirling designs and depictions of heavenly creatures. Add to all this the words being sung live in church, reinforced with wafting incense and the perfumes of all the women sitting around you.
Language became sacred and eternal. Words splattered different meanings and feelings all over my brain and psyche. Books had power over me. And they continued to do so throughout eighteen years of school, and then as best friends in lonely places.
So when I write, I feel. There is magic there somehow – perhaps not worthy of exotic fonts, shiny gold leaf, smooth leather, and permanent ribbons for markers – but a magic as powerful to me at age 71 as it was when I was 5.
Jack Dermody teaches Personality as a Second Language; he is a national group facilitator and corporate trainer, textbook author in linguistics and psychology, and author of Job Interviewers: Get Inside Their Heads. He is formerly published with Prentice-Hall, ELS Language Services.