How I Write

Most writing begins in Purpose, a very crowded city, with directions out unclear amid contradictory signs. North of Purpose is Poetry, South is Prose. East is essay. West is Uncharted Territory. It doesn’t matter which direction you choose; Purpose is surrounded by ocean. The easiest and most travelled conveyance out of Purpose uses words. Words come from Language, some say the oldest of cities. But not all languages use words, semaphore, for example. Other examples of language without words might include body language, talking drums, whistling, smoke signals, music. We might say that those languages are not written, but music is written, and without words.

But I do use words, and because I’m only an average speller, poor pronouncer, mostly monolingual, and usually lost in Purpose, I keep a dictionary open while I write, but also because individual words are like recipes; I want to know what’s in them. Sometimes I spend so much time in a dictionary nothing gets written. One easily gets sidetracked in Genealogy and never reaches far from Purpose.

That one uses words doesn’t necessarily mean that one writes. One might talk, achieve one’s purpose, no need for pen and paper. Others might commit what someone said to memory, and repeat it themselves for a ticket out of Purpose. Talking is not writing, but it is a kind of writing.

And I don’t always use words. I draw cartoons. But if the cartoon is an argument, it is at least a kind of writing.

Sometimes it’s enough to ramble around Purpose, maybe with a camera in hand, walking through the neighborhoods, down to the industrial section, out to the ballpark.

If writing were a sport, it might be baseball. The outfielders adept at prose. At third base and first, essayists. At shortstop and second base, poets. The battery of pitcher and catcher a thesaurus of pitches: location, intent, speed, deceit. Readers may want to put the Shift on here.

We might say our purpose is to entertain, so we give our writing twists and shouts, a preacher’s sermon. The purpose of most writing is argument, an attempt to persuade. Purpose should not be confused with occasion. The occasion of writing is an assignment: a query, a synopsis, a critique or analysis. And occasion should not be confused with form. A postcard (from Purpose) is form, not content, but we begin to see how one shapes the other: “Wish you were here!” “You should have come!” “Can’t wait to get home!” “Not coming home, ever!”

In short, how we write is not quite the same thing as what we write or why we write. When we write is not important, nor where.

But it’s very hard to get out of Purpose. You never know when you’ll be stopped by the Authorities and asked to present your papers. Documents, photographs, identifications, QR Codes. They might even want to draw blood or have you pee into a bottle.

Purpose can be a mean place, a town without pity.

So I mostly try to avoid Purpose, and that’s how I write, or try to.

5 Comments

  1. Dan Hen says:

    Are you writing this on purpose ? So , anyhow , if writing is baseball , who’s the pitcher and who’s catcher ? Maybe we don’t want to pursue that analogy too far , though . A mention of ” pen and paper ” in the 3rd paragraph …….I wonder how many writers use paper these days ; it almost seems a quaint nod to a passing phenomenon. As the Air Cav Colonel in Apocalypse Now said on the unsecured beach in Vietnam : ” Charlie don’t surf ! ” Or as the other guy said in an earlier war : ” Damn the torpedos . Full speed ahead ! ” Keep up the writing no matter what , my friend . There must be something about pursuing a purpose in there somewhere .

    1. Joe Linker says:

      To put forward, to place, to propose. To porous. To plant. To pitch the knuckleball no one can hit. Accusative – what’s yr ad rem? I use paper and pen, pocket full of purpose.

      To every thing there is a season, to every time a purpose. But just because there’s a reason for something doesn’t mean it has to make sense.

  2. In search of “purpose ” (perhaps) or voice, or self ? Of late I’ve had a “thought” that my “purpose”, my “reason” for attempting to write is not to explain, or explicate, or critique…but perhaps to find what it is that occasionally resonates in the silence between myself and the world….(i.e. insight? inspiration? imagination?) on the way to figure out how my consiousness relates to the world….I guess all this is pretty vague….but I guess that simply reflects my unknowing, listeining within silence…..which in turn seems to be a starting place in itself…..What sings, what speaks is the voice resounding in the space between self and world…(metaphor, symbol, even image( .i.e. what might be possible to say….

      1. ..perhaps so, if one has faith…..

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