Another Perspective on Why Writers Write

I am all about the somethingness. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

“The writer must not really know what he is knowing, what he is learning to know when he writes, which is more than the knowing of it. A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light. The writer is separate from his work but that’s all the writer is – what he writes. A writer must be smart but not too smart. He must be reckless and patient and daring and dull – for what is duller than writing, trying to write? And he must never care – caring spoils everything. It compromises the work. It shows the writers’ hand.

The writer doesn’t want to disclose or instruct or advocate, he wants to transmute and disturb. He cherishes the mystery, he cares for it like a fugitive in his cabin, his cave. He doesn’t want to talk it into giving itself up. He would never turn it in to the authorities, the mass mind. The writer is somewhat of a fugitive himself, actually. He wants to escape his time, the obligations of his time, and, by writing, transcend them. The writer does not like to follow orders, not even the orders of his own organizing intellect.

The writer doesn’t trust his enemies, of course, who are wrong about his writing, but he doesn’t trust his friends, either, who he hopes are right. The writer trusts nothing he writes – it should be too reckless and alive for that, it should be beautiful and menacing and slightly out of his control. It should want to live itself somehow.

The writer is never nourished by his own work, it is never satisfying to him. The work is a stranger, it shuns him a little, for the writer is really something of a fool, so engaged in his disengagement, so self-conscious, so eager to serve something greater, which is the writing. Or which could be the writing if only the writer is good enough. The work stands a little apart from the writer, it doesn’t want to go down with him when he stumbles or fails or retreats. The writer must do all of this alone, in secret, in drudgery, in confusion, awkwardly, one word at a time.

The writer is an exhibitionist, and yet he is private….The reality of his life is meaningless….He drinks, he loves unwisely, he’s happy, he’s sick…. It doesn’t matter.

The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve . . . . something. Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness – those exquisite, enveloping, protective wings.”

— from Joy Williams’ UNCANNY THE SINGING THAT COMES FROM CERTAIN HUSKS, published in WHY I WRITE, edited by Will Blythe

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