(Me on the beach in Carmel trying to forget)
Why we write.
I buried my father-in-law yesterday. He died too young, too suddenly, and his passing elicited too many feelings. None of the emotions were subtle like sadness. I’ve been angry at him for leaving my kids without their grandpa. They loved him. Because they loved him, and he left them, I am angry. And when writers feel strongly about something they write.
When we landed in San Francisco this week, the first song we heard was Hotel California by the Eagles. It brought a smile to my face on a day when I didn’t think I could smile.
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair...”
I can’t say that I’m a fan of the Eagles. I’m the wrong generation and wrong demographic, but one particular lyric stood out as I heard the song on the dark desert highway between Gilroy and Salinas.
“Some dance to remember. Some dance to forget.”
As I pondered topics for my blog today, this one seemed the most relevant. Why do we write (or read for that matter)? And the answer is in the Eagles. Some write to remember. Some write to forget.
We are still early enough in 2009, and I’d like to hope that your optimism of January 1, a mere two weeks ago, hasn’t faded. I hope you are still trying to exercise, eat healthy, keep your house clutter free, and write more pages today than you did yesterday. But I also hope that in your quest to write more, you will also think about ways to write better. My first idea to better writing is to identify why you write.
I write to remember. Good writing is a recollection of things that startle your senses. You might remember that air in California is different, but you will write about the scent of eucalyptus interrupted with the stench of skunk. Or that the sand peppered wind is as chilling as the frigid waves. You write because you can’t find anyone who makes tortillas the way your grandmother used to make and you want to remember. You write because touching your husband’s hand on a cold winter’s morning is not the same as touching his father’s lifeless hand, but the similarity is painfully present. Some write to forget.
If you are also writing to forget, I hope your journey lessens the pain. It takes us back to places that are lost by time or distance.
“We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine.”
If you are writing to remember, I hope the air smells like lovely eucalyptus or wintry pine. I hope you can taste your grandmother's homemade tortillas. I hope to remember the grudging look of approval my father-in-law gave me ten years ago when I spent three days making tamales with my mother-in-law. I hope to always remember that. Some dance to forget. Some dance to remember.