Tuesday, March 8, 2016

To Make Sense of the World

Inspiration can be so elusive at times.

I awoke this morning and raced around in my head to find something to write about. I replayed my day yesterday, starting with the discovery of dead, dried up worms on my classroom floor, followed by an email from my parent volunteer that said she wouldn't be coming in, leaving me with a large stack of papers to copy before my students arrived.  It seemed like a warning that the day ahead was going to be a rough one.  It was Monday, and raining, and the start of the last week before Spring Break, so my expectations were already pretty low.  The teaching part of my day, however, proceeded pretty much like it always does: a few phone calls to interrupt lessons, constant reminders to stay focused, repeating directions until I wanted to scream. (I didn't.)  It was all exceedingly ordinary. Nowhere in the shadows of the day could I find a glimmer of inspiration.

Even though I really wanted to stay under the warm covers a little longer, I made myself get out of bed when the alarm went off.  After making my cup of coffee, I sat down to peruse Facebook before settling down to the business of writing.  There in my news feed was a post by Kate DiCamillo in which she shared an email exchange between her and Rebecca Stead.  Their conversation focused on shared interests in books and on their personal writing processes. (You can read their exchange here.)

One line in the very beginning jumped out at me.  Kate DiCamillo, responding to a question about where the impulse to write comes from, wrote, "it is a *need* to tell a story, to make sense of the world through story."

"To make sense of the world through story." What a wonderful way to explain why writers write! That is, I believe, what drives me to write.  That need to explore the world through words in hopes of gaining a greater understanding. Posing questions and forming hypotheses to make sense of the truly nonsensical. During some of the more difficult times in my life, I have found that writing was the one thing that helped me make it through.  

But the need to "make sense of the world through story" is also what stops me from writing at times. Too often I sit down and start writing, only to abandon the piece when I discover I have no idea where I am going.  Instead of reaching some profound conclusion, I find myself mired in questions and incomplete cogitations. If I don't have the answers, how can I make sense of the world? If I can't make sense of the world, what's the point in writing, then? Realizing I don't have any answers, no incredible insights to add to the situation, I stop dead in my tracks and walk away.

I wonder, though, if maybe you don't always need to know where you are going. Both Kate DiCamillo and Rebecca Stead revealed in their conversation that neither one of them are planners, carefully outlining their stories before they begin.  Instead, Kate Di Camillo states that "writing is the only place i have learned to be patient. and it is also the only place i have learned to not to try and control things."  

I know there will be many days ahead when inspiration will run dry or I will question my ability to put my thoughts into words. There will be numerous occasions when I will think that I simply cannot make sense of the world. I will try to remember on those occasions that sometimes wandering aimlessly leads to exciting places. And sometimes, just the wandering itself is enough, no grand destinations needed.

And, it would appear, sometimes that glimmer of inspiration sparkles just when you were sure there was none to be found.



2 comments:

  1. I feel I learn best from my comments and questions towards others. Your post is some-what of a tribute to that.
    I was once in a writing club in high school where we pulled the quote, “You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say," and placed it on a shirt.
    I recently wore this shirt (from over six years ago) and was pondering the meaning once again. It seems to go hand-in-hand with your post.
    And what a coincidence that I was thinking about the meaning, but only a few days ago, and I happen to run into your blog post?!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I feel I learn best from my comments and questions towards others. Your post is some-what of a tribute to that.
    I was once in a writing club in high school where we pulled the quote, “You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say," and placed it on a shirt.
    I recently wore this shirt (from over six years ago) and was pondering the meaning once again. It seems to go hand-in-hand with your post.
    And what a coincidence that I was thinking about the meaning, but only a few days ago, and I happen to run into your blog post?!

    ReplyDelete