Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Do I Write?

As if I have a choice.

When I saw this post on Mark Kersetter’s blog I was utterly enthralled with his response, with his heartfelt experiences. I found it to be eloquent, articulate, and profound. I really, really didn’t wanna write this after reading his post. But I’ll give it my best shot. Frankly, I think he only picked me so I’d stop trolling through his archives.

What? My boys got a Playstation for their birthdays and no longer want anything to do with me. So I was bored. Geesh. LOL.


Writing, for me, is about release. I release the pressure in my head, shuffle words into some random fashion in the vain attempt to make sense of the things that I don’t understand. So much of my life has been one bit of confusion crashing into uncertainty and then disintegrating into disappointment—that often I feel as though I’m adrift in choppy water with no row, no life jacket—nothing solid. So writing becomes the vessel that’s tangible and real—the lifeline I cling to. Writing is the only thing that makes sense.

But it’s also torture. For whatever reason, when I take to text, all that comes out of me is bitter and cruel. Words become pain, become anger, become hate, become lies, become weapons, and become truth. They morph on the white screen in front of me so that I don’t even know what I’m saying until the last period is written.

Not that I’m bitching. It is what it is. And there’s purity to the gritty stuff, you know? There’s honesty there. And honesty is all that matters to me. I want to peel back each layer of my flesh and examine each element until I am comfortable with what I see. If I can sort out my head—if I can dissect and destroy all my weaknesses then maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to like myself. Or at least respect my attempts at writing or painting, for that matter.

The thing is...I never set out to be a writer or a blogger or anything in this vein. I'm an artist. That's how I've always identified myself. I paint. But I am also a free spirit and when I was in college I took a bunch of classes outside of my major (I majored in painting). One of the classes I took was a "Women in Writing" course. It had feminist themes and required a lot of personal essays. One essay in particular was tough for me. We were asked to write about our bodies.

At the time I was in the throes of a miserable marriage, still dealing with the effects of being sexually abused as a child, and coming to terms with the fact that I'd married someone who kicked me every chance he got. My point? I hated my body. When I was thin, I attracted a lot of male attention. I never learned how to deal with that. For a long time I honestly believed the only thing I was meant to be was a sex object. I felt very much like I was cursed and I think that's why I gained so much weight. I think I packed on pounds as a form of body armor. "If I'm fat and gross, then I'll be safe cuz no one will touch me." It's not that I consciously thought that, but in retrospect, I think that was why I ended up being 5' tall and weighing 330 lbs. Yeah. you read that right. That's what self-hate does to a person.

It's suicide, just another way to die, to fade into oblivion.

So that essay, for me, was like lighting a stick of dynamite and holding it to my breasts while I flung my body onto a landmine. It was...hard to write. I waited till the last minute and I poured a 13 page essay out in less than 3 hours. I didn't edit it. Are you kidding? I couldn't even read it. Coward that I am, I didn't even want to go to class to see how my classmates graded it. (We had to pass out copies to the whole class and grade each others work.) That meant 20 peers standing in judgment.

Imagine my shock when they all loved it, when they gushed and cried over it. I felt paralyzed when my professor told me I should change my major from painting to writing. I didn't. I'm a painter. But I did take more writing courses. And I did start to take the poems and stories that I'd written for years and never fully appreciated more seriously. I also started taking Tae Kwon Do. (I've lost 72 lbs to date--and still going.) I started this blog. I left my ex. The divorce should be final soon. Thank God. I moved to New Mexico from Ohio. That's a lot of changes over a two year span.

So maybe I write to find the pieces of myself that have slipped away and try to fit them back together? Maybe I write to fill the silence in my own head? Maybe I write because it saved my life? Probably I write because it keeps me sane. It's helped me accept my sensuality--to appreciate that sex isn't dirty. It isn't a tool to control someone--that it's okay to be a woman through and through. In that sense writing has empowered me.

Whatever the reasoning, regardless of my dislike of my own writing—I stick with it. I write as if there’s a loaded gun aimed at my temple and if I stop rat-a-tap-tapping at the keys a trigger will lurch and all that will be left is a bloody manuscript. It’s as if I leave my body and pour every ounce of everything that I feel, or have ever felt, onto the page. It’s a wild rush of emotion. It's giving voice to my convictions. I never have a plot. I never even know the characters name before I write. I just start typing, or scribbling in a book, praying that it will make a lick of sense at the end.

So why do I write? Because I have to. Because I’m too pathetic to do anything else. Because there’s a volcano of emotion rumbling beneath the surface of my skin and it’s gotta go somewhere. I write because it’s the path I walk. It's my lifeline.

There’s a Blogger who’s pretty good at writing. He likes to boldly go where few other writers dare. So I think I'll pass the torch to Marc Nash. Well, Marc, why do you write the crazy things you do? :)

I swear Axl is a far better lyricist than he gets credit for.


  1. Ha thanks Kat! I'll get my thinking cap on but you pretty much seemed to have nailed what it means for you. Fantastic insight.

    marc x

  2. Wow, that's a lot of honesty Kat. I've been following you for nearly all of those two years and I've seen the improvement in your writing. It's nice to know some of where that comes from. Hugs, Alan

  3. I thing you wrap it up best at: As if I have a choice.

    Brutally, wonderfully put.

  4. okay, off the top of my head & in no particular order:
    Cos I can't play bass guitar
    Cos I live in my head
    Cos words are duplicitous and I seek precision
    Cos it's therapy
    Cos I'm a coward and writing is a chickenshit form of political action
    Cos there aren't many books out there I'd want to read, so thought I'd try and write 'em
    Cos the novel form has stood still for 200 years
    Cos I never take anything on trust
    Cos I like to tear the scales away from people's eyes
    Cos it always comes back to the words
    Cos we've barely scratched the surface of the art form
    Cos I made some bad decisions
    Cos I'm perverse
    Cos I like to challenge people
    Cos I've tried to give it up, but it won't let me
    Cos I can't sleep anyway
    Cos it seems written in my DNA; I'm not constituted to do anything else
    Cos of words falling way short and needing to be called on that

    M x

  5. Thank you Alan and Jen. :)

    Marc--I went to your blog to see what you'd written, was surprised to see it here. LOL. I like what you wrote--very true to form.

    "Cos words are duplicitous and I seek precision"--I can see that about you. Great line. :)

    "Cos there aren't many books out there I'd want to read, so thought I'd try and write 'em"--arrogant, but awesome! :D

    Sleep is overrated anyway. ;)

    Thanks Marc. :)

  6. Marc--Maybe I'll put your comments in a post--not fair that you hid them down here. Turkey! :p

  7. well I'm shy and retiring as you know! Less photographed than Bigfoot...

    M x

  8. You're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. Just think how awesome you'll be when you're a dried up old hag like me. ;)

  9. Marc...PFFT. Lol.

    Vl--You're no old hag! :D

  10. "I write as if there’s a loaded gun aimed at my temple and if I stop rat-a-tap-tapping at the keys a trigger will lurch and all that will be left is a bloody manuscript."

    That is one hell of a sentence. As a writer I admire that.

    Your wanting to peel back the layers and examine yourself in total honesty - as a person who has spent his whole adult life trying to become healthy I admire that. I don't think it's a common quality. And I appreciate knowing why you write about sex so much. I knew there had to be a reason.

    I've experienced crippling self-hatred too, not of my body but of my mind. And too when I write, regardless of my mood, what often comes out is something sad or tortured in some way.

    It sounds like you've put yourself in a position of empowerment in more than one way. You've taken yourself physically out of a fucked up situation. That's not pathetic. The pathetic ones can't do that. The pathetic ones are those who can't look at themselves at all, much less begin to peel back a layer. They are the ones that will just sink. I can tell you that it's possible to learn to live with yourself and even to like yourself. It really is. Keep on going as you are, and cut yourself a little slack once in a while. I hope you don't mind me saying that. Thanks for being real.

    Oh, btw, since the focus of my blog is writing I don't talk about it, but for most of my life I considered myself a visual artist too - an artist who reads a lot and can't stop writing. I have the same hangup about digital photos - they don't do the work justice - but I'd like to see more of your work online.

  11. This post isn't the proper place for it, but some of Marc's reasons for writing are a bit surprising.

    "Cos there aren't many books out there I'd want to read, so thought I'd try and write 'em"

    - That kind of shocks me. And

    "Cos the novel form has stood still for 200 years"

    - That's just not true. Is there a deplorable lack of adventure today? Hell yes. Are there possibilities latent within the first novels that have barely been tapped? Oh yes. But there's also a long list of models going back well over 100 years that demonstrate a wide range of experimentation.

  12. Thanks Mark. I really appreciate your thoughtful response. :)

    Did you get the email I sent you about my paintings?

  13. Kat, so glad Mark passed the meme along to you, because your essay resonates in many ways. Words are also a form of armor, and a fire, a catharsis. Your words move me, I've put on weight in the past for my own reasons, most of all to keep people at a distance. I love how you have empowered yourself in so many ways: writing, martial arts, removing yourself from harm. Write on, girl. Peace...

  14. Thanks Linda, that's very kind of you to say. :)

  15. It's just how I feel Mark. There is way more experimentation in the US than the UK, but little seems to sustain itself to the length of a novel. And yes there is so much to be done, not least with the design and typography. And the epistemologies afforded to us by technology, science and the like, which are nothing but metaphors anyway.