Why I Write: 2018 National Day on Writing

Why I Write: 2018 National Day on Writing


So one of the reasons that I started writing—I’ve
known I wanted to be a writer, like I said, since I was seven, and when I was a kid I
got in trouble for lying a lot, and I had a teacher who said, instead of lying, write
it down ‘cause if you write it down, it’s not a lie anymore, it’s fiction. And then you don’t get in trouble anymore
and people actually pay you. And so one thing about writing is I always
say I write ‘cause I have all these questions, not ‘cause I have the answers, and the questions
lead me to start creating characters and telling stories. One thing that I love about writing is it
kind of makes things make sense to me. One thing I do when I’m writing—when I
first start writing, I say, no one is ever going to see this. So then I write down everything I would write
if no one was ever going to see it, and it allows me to be more honest with myself, and
then, and then I start creating the world. So I start with a character in my head, and
then the character just starts speaking ‘cause basically if you have two characters on a
page, right, you have dialogue. They just start talking to each other, and
eventually they’ll probably start arguing, so then you get conflict, and then they’re
in a room, so then you have the setting. But the thing I love about writing is it makes
me feel powerful. You can create the world that you want to
live in, right, through writing, and then, and then, see it there and see the possibility
of it and then see yourself in that world. I don’t know if you all know, but anyone
who read Brown Girl Dreaming knows I’m a really, really, really, really slow reader. I’ve always been a really slow reader, I
still am a really slow reader, and when I was a kid, people thought it was a little
bit ridiculous that I was saying I wanted to be a writer given that I was a slow reader
and that I, you know, my reading did not come easily to me, and I think that what I realized
once I was much older is that in order to be a writer you have to be a reader. You don’t have to be a fast reader, you
don’t have to be an “advanced reader” quote unquote, but you have to read; you have
to see, you know, see what other people are doing. Copy other people, learn from other people,
and it’s basically how I learned to write—by reading and copying and rereading and then
rewriting. I don’t know if you noticed with Each Kindness—a
lot of it is memorized, and that’s from the rewriting and the rewriting and the rewriting. And the rewriting, of course, is not always
glamorous, right? Some days I hate rewriting. Some days I love rewriting. But I love when something I wrote has been
rewritten because then I’m one step closer to finishing it, even though I don’t always
like that rewriting process. I’m glad you stressed that, because they
should be in the process of rewriting the poems that they are going to perform at our
poetry café on Thursday. Oh nice. So you have one of the best writers in the
world telling you it’s important to rewrite. Yes, I rewrote Brown Girl Dreaming about thirty-one
times. Yeah, it took me three years. So that, that’s a little bit crazy, but
there are still things in the book that I say, “I wish I could change that now.” So there’s a saying that if you survived
kindergarten, you have enough to write about for the rest of your life. Because in that first five years, six years,
so much happens to you. And so for me, I never don’t have ideas. Sometimes I don’t have time to write them. But there are ideas everywhere. You wake up. You walk outside. You brush your teeth, you don’t brush your
teeth. You have an interaction with somebody. Everything that happens to you or that you
happen to is something worth writing about. And the more specific you are, the more people
you’re going to reach with your writing. Well, as most people know here, I love animals
and I hate hearing about animal abuse, and I always wanted to tell the story of my dog
in a book just ‘cause he had a very tragic background. Is he okay now? Yeah, he was just, we found him under a house
at one week old in New Jersey, and he just has gastritis now and that’s it. How old is he? He’s one now. I want to write, like, a story about the world,
like, everyone’s dreams, where there’s no like violence or, like, stereotypes or
things like that and, like, see like how that world affects us and, like, if that’s good
or bad. I’d like to go to, like, I don’t know,
like a small town or something and just write down every just sort of regular everyday things
that happens to everyone and, like, within a one-mile radius, like, all the people and
animals and everything and just, like, have people be able to read that, like, you know,
this person walked down a street and they tripped over their shoe and they, like, twisted
their ankle a bit, or, like, this bird landed on a tree branch and then he picked a bur
and then he flew off, ‘cause I just think it’s really interesting to just read about
stuff that happens, without any like conflict or anything. Nothing’s stopping you all from writing
them, right? Is there anything stopping you? What stops, what stops people from writing? I’m interested in that. Time. Time? Just like homework and everything. Okay, how many of you have, like, done something
on your phone in the past day, maybe played a game, watched something on YouTube, watched
something on Net – okay, we got time, y’all.

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