Why I Write   Leave a comment

During a recent writer’s retreat (Black Fly Writer’s Retreat; Maine Writers and Poets, May 2013 at Grand Lake Stream) we were tasked with describing ‘why I write.’  Here’s my response.


I’m sure the last six months were harrowing for her, with all that the doctors put her through.  For me, they were the longest I ever lived.  It seemed a lifetime, from the day I drove up to Cape Cod to bring her back to New Jersey, to the moment I, not three minutes from her bedside, received that call.  Nights like the time she insisted I smuggle a McDonalds chocolate milk shake into the hospital in Morristown well after hours, because the tests they’d ordered made her miss dinner.  Then came that day in Annapolis when her journey ended.

My friend Fred told me, back when my father lay near death, that ‘you see the world differently when you start losing your parents.’ Back then, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but by now his words had started to come alive.

As a child, I remember the sounds of their lovemaking.  By the time I was twelve I knew what it was, but by the time I was twenty I knew that their relationship was not perfect.  My father had strayed, but since it was never a topic of discussion and it was clear they spent his last decade not only together but lovingly so, fences had somehow been mended.  It was not given to me to know how, or at what cost.

Of course, by this time I had been writing for many years.  Much of my career had involved stringing words together, most often to keep my employer out of court and then later to pass on imparted wisdom. I was no stranger to the process.

Her death changed all that.  My own youthful experiences had led me to a fidelity and possibly a marriage that my father never knew, but still the way the two of them hung together was instructional.  When she died, taking the knowledge of their intimate conversations to the grave, I was freed from the crushing burden of the caregiver, and also freed to spend time exploring life’s deeper mysteries.

So why do I write?  I write to learn, to explore, to plumb the depths of those mysteries in such a way that I teach myself and maybe, along the way, help others. Through each of my characters I strive to understand why some relationships work, why some fall apart, and some simply muddle through. Unless fiction shines a bright light on life’s bigger truths, it is merely decoration.

That is why my characters and their experiences are important to me. From Delsey’s long path recovering from a momentary lapse in judgment, Cecelia’s struggle with her own doubts and suspicions, and Alice’s reluctance to accept that she will not attain her own larger success without trusting others; each has taught me something. These women, as well as Harvey, Matt, and Jonathan, to me are quite real and I’m sure each bears a strand of my own DNA.  I don’t know if they care about me, but I care about them.

I already knew that love does not doubt, but these characters have taught me that love also means to look simultaneously within and without for both strength and solace, and sometimes to look away.

We are not meant to live alone. I write about why that is. Artaud was right; a writer of fiction can lie openly and freely about the little things, but never the big ones. About those, only a brutal honesty is good enough.

Posted May 17, 2013 by JD Rule

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