Why do it?

Someone asked me the other day why I write.
The question wasn’t posed as a challenge but rather as curiosity. And, of course, the same can be asked of why do we read, why do we act in plays, why do we sing, why do we sculpt or paint?
Whether we are writing songs or poetry or fiction or retelling a fact, creativity is at the fundamental core of each of us.
I used to think that writing provided an escape for me—a place to go to leave the pressures and perils of everyday life behind me; to step out of my life.
But in truth, I think I write in an attempt to understand those very perils of my everyday life; to work out the conundrums in my life and the conundrums I have witnessed in the lives of others.
I don’t have any answers but neither do the rest of us. All we can do is try to find our way to truth and to the best version of ourselves—and sometimes that is a long and arduous journey.
I think the most valuable piece of advice I was given while growing up was in my teenage years from the mother of one of my closest friends. I was feeling a bit lost; maybe even slightly hopeless with a sprinkle of self-pity.
She took hold of my shoulders, may have give them a little shake, and said, “Life isn’t meant to be easy.” (Thank you, Gertie Bujold).
And it’s not. Not for any of us. Some days are easier than others; some lives look easier than ours and definitely there are hurts greater or as great as our own. But we’re all walking a path with bumps, dark corners, muddy waters, uncertain terrain.
Reading and writing both help us understand those bumps and dark corners and muddy waters, and just maybe it will help chart our course to shore.
Not all of us, of course, but many of us are drawn to stories where the protagonist, sometimes becoming our hero, gets knocked about by life and we look for the light.
Not every story has a happy ending but we hope for one. The story becomes about us as we are pulled in and become one and the same with the characters.
Children are drawn to Harry Potter not because his life was easy, but because it wasn’t. In cheering for Harry, we are cheering for ourselves or Boo Radley or Cinderella or Huck Finn or Oliver Twist or any character that becomes the “classic” in our reading library.
Books become our friends, like nothing else does. They become something we tuck under our arm or into our bedside table or under a blanket with a flashlight to find out “what happens” when we have been told lights out.
At any moment we can open this book and find ourselves on its pages. A good book does that for us; it assures us that someone knows, someone understands.
We all have a story and it is within us to write that story, but other things get in the way: survival, bill paying, raising children, fighting disease, Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hopefully, I write for those who can’t; for those whose pencils never quite find their way to paper.