This week, I participated in writer Marilyn Moss’s blog project, “Why Create?” Marilyn had some very nice things to say about me and my memoir, Walk Away (I won’t re-post those here!) before sharing my response to the intriguing question of why human beings are drawn, or even compelled, to create. Here’s what I wrote for her:
Next year, I’ll be sixty years old. I started writing as a teenager, overwhelmed by longing and confusion, and I wrote the sort of angst-ridden, encoded stuff you might expect. It made sense only to me, but it allowed me to make some sense out of the chaos of experience. Ironically, the creative process itself distracted me from the angst, even though angst was my subject matter.
Later, as a young adult, I became less interested in the angst and more interested in form, especially in poetry. This, I think, was also a way to make sense out of experience, by fitting it into the predictability of meter and given forms like sonnets and sestinas. Shaping my thoughts and experience into a poem was an exercise in thinking as well as feeling. While inside the poem-making, I was in the moment, in that sense of flow that resembles meditation, or the luxurious halfway state between sleep and waking. I was hooked.
So the simplest answer, for me, to the question “Why create?” is that it feels good, whether the process distracts me from some pain, or brings my brain into a deliciously altered state. A more complicated answer is that I also believe in sharing the dark secrets of our lives, because there can be no dark secrets if we don’t keep them in the dark.
I still write and publish poetry, but more and more, my writing energy pours into essay and memoir, the revelation and consideration of those dark secrets. My most recent project, Walk Away, a Kindle Singles memoir, is about my time as a teenage runaway, and about integrating a violent, impulsive past into a more conscious and deliberate present. It’s been a great honor to hear from readers that my story has resonated for them. And that’s the final reason I create: to communicate with others, especially other women.