“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.”
Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977
You try to explain why you do it, and you can’t. You want to believe that you have been put in this position to be a writer, but those echoes are so faint that you’re not sure that they are even there. E. L. Doctorow says that “writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” and you fully believe him when you read that.
When you write, it is a declaration that you will give public forum to the voices that cry out in your head. Rather than silencing them (the socially expected response to their presence), you encourage them, ask them to talk amongst themselves, poll them for settings and plot devices, label them, categorize them, exalt some and demean others. You give them license to live.
And those who know you and forgive your gross inadequacies such that they call you a friend, those ones perhaps wonder why the stories you tell them are so wild in detail, so rich in metaphor, so filled with characters that seem ready to leap into the room and drink your wine. They wonder why your mood is so fragile and your highs and lows so bright and so dark.
They wonder, but there is nothing you can tell them of the need to sit before a blank page, your mind roiling and desperate to pour out its stories before the voices take you over completely.
If any of this applies to you, you have my sympathy.