Posted by: M.A. | September 6, 2007

Why? Why? Why be a Writer?

I decided to be a writer with high hopes that it would allow me to avoid work. When writing turned out to be work as well as fun, I stuck with it anyway simply because it seemed too late to turn back. I stuck mostly to fiction where it seemed that the facts need not get in the way of the truth but then as time went on I found that some of the facts of my own life were more revealing that the fictional truths I create. This came as a surprise and a shock to me.

As a kid, I had a fairly minute ego: no one with in earshot was ready to persuade me that my opinions and insights were of much value in the world I lived in. So later, when I grew into my skin as a writer, I pretended for a while that what I had to say really was of importance. After a while, I started believing in the myth and this convinced me to abandon fiction for a while and get autobiographical.

Since my life story would be exceedingly boring, I was forced to edit my personal history ruthlessly until there was something left worth sharing. My first fragmented history of the self came out as AN AVALANCHE OF OCEAN and I almost thought that I was done with
autobiography. What more could I possibly say once I’d written about winter surfing and transcendental wood splitting and getting strip searched for cod tongues in a Labrador airport?
But then something happened to me that I can’t quite explain.

AVALANCHE had set off something in me a kind of manic, magical couple of years where I felt like I was living on the edge of some important breakthrough. It was a time of greater compressed euphoria and despair than I’d ever felt before. Stuff was happening to me, images of the past were flooding through the doors and I needed to get it all down. Some of it was funny, some of it was not. Dead writers were hovering over my shoulder saying, “Dig deep; follow it through. Don’t let any of it go.” And I didn’t.

So again, I have the audacity to say that these things that happened tome are worth your attention. Like Wordsworth, I am a man “pleased with my own volitions.” Like Whitman I find myself saying to readers, “to you, endless announcements.”

As I write this, I am bumping into forty five and I need to share the discoveries of the last ten years. For me it was a time of great battles. I fought the construction of street lights in the
wilderness, the tedium of organizations and the relentless, good intentioned blundering of government and science.

In Transcendental Anarchy I celebrated the uncompromising passages of a mid thirties male, admitting I would never be an astronaut or a president and, instead finding satisfaction in
building with wood, arguing a good cause or even undergoing a successful vasectomy.

Write about what makes you feel the most uncomfortable, a voice in my head told me. So I tackled fear and my own male anger and my biggest failures. And even more dangerous, I tried writing about the most ordinary of things: a morning in Woolco, an unexceptional day, the thread of things that keeps a life together. Throughout it all, there is, I hope, a record of a search for love and meaning fraught with failure and recovery. Maybe I’ve developed a basic mistrust of the rational, logical conclusions.

I’ve only had the briefest of glimpses beyond the surface but I’ve seen enough to know that sometimes facts are not enough. There are times to make the leap, to get metaphysical, and suppose that we all live larger lives than appearances would suggest.

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