Micah asked me the most basic of questions as I was doing the dishes last Saturday night: “Why do you write?” I surprised myself by rattling off several somewhat eloquent answers. And when the dishes were done, I went straight to the computer to try write down what I’d just said, with middling success. I spent less than an hour on it, and I just read it through once to fix the most egregious problems, so it is still quite rough. But it is a start to what seems to be a rite of passage among writers: an essay about why they write.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think.
Every morning I wake up, pull the granola out of the cupboard, get the vitamins out of the bottles, fill bowls, hand out spoons. I read stories, remind little boys to get dressed, help them find their pants and encourage them to put their clothing on forward.
Some days I take them to the park, or shopping, or to a museum. Other days we stay home. Read more stories, build with blocks and train tracks, have power struggles over who gets to decide what snack and when. I make a lunch that often stays half-eaten on the table until dinnertime. I read more stories and enforce naptime as best I can.
In the afternoon I can sometimes work on a project, or go for a run by myself, or bake a “special treat” for dessert – cookies, cupcakes, something fun I saw while browsing the Internet. Sometimes I’ll have my little helpers by my side, but not always. Often I’ll play some games that end poorly, if they make it to the end at all, and I’ll try to comfort and console my opponent when things don’t appear to be going his way. And then I’ll start making dinner.
There are more power struggles over where to sit and when, how much to eat and of what, reminders to take another bite because bedtime is quickly approaching and I’d hate for you to be hungry in the middle of the night. And then the bedtime routine: bath, pajamas, books, songs, teeth, prayer, hugs, love-you-and-good-nights.
I clear the table, do the dishes, wipe the counters and sweep the floors. I’ll put books and toys away and, if I’m feeling particularly energetic, or annoyed at the clutter and the way I step on granola every time I walk down the hallway, I’ll vacuum.
Then, when the fuzziness of so many nonsensical jokes and stuttered sentences and whiny demands and half-uttered thoughts which were forgotten just when they were starting to get to the point has cleared from my brain, and my mind has re-congealed, I sit down to write.
I write because I can, because I like to arrange words on a page, because I have long felt that it is one of the few talents I possess and I had better make the most of it. But I also write because this is my life. When I record it as I just have, it is boring, repetitive, monotonous, mundane. It’s certainly nothing to get excited about, and perhaps difficult to find meaning in. But in writing about it, I can find the meaning, the significance, of each event. I can see the patterns of behavior, and identify the crucial moment when I made a mistake that lead to a meltdown which caused things to go awry. And, possibly, to see how I can prevent things from happening the same way next time.
Sometimes it is almost a scientific undertaking: Subject 1 has been behaving in an odd manner as of late. I have identified three possible causes for the strange turn in behavior. Over the next few weeks I will test a series of responses in order to determine which cause is the most likely culprit of the change . . . .
And sometimes it is purely emotional, a spilling forth of my love and hopes and dreams for these little beings, and my insecurities at being put in a position of such great influence over them. Who’s idea was this, anyway? Me? Really? At my age? I’m too young! Barely out of high school! (Or barely out of college? Grad school? Okay, maybe I should be able to do this kind of thing by now. Buck up, Little Camper.)
My hope, of course, is to record the meaningful moments, the firsts, the breakthroughs, the moments when they surprised us all. So that, years from now, we can look back and remember when we did that, or that we went there, or when that used to be part of our routine. And wasn’t that crazy that you didn’t like potatoes? Yeah, and we had the hardest time getting you to sit in your chair for more than a minute or two.
And as I’m looking for meaning, tying things together, weaving thoughts and emotions into bare facts and events, creating a story and a life of significance out of the mundane, I hope it comes through loud and clear: what it is they mean to me. They are my reason for writing, and have been for years before they were born. They are my reason for being.