Why I Write
I write for two reasons, one selfish and one unselfish.
The unselfish reason: because I’m an asshole. You see, every time a writer sits down at the thing they do their writing on, and they turn out a sentence like “He was a hurricane of emotion,” or, for fucks sake, “The sound and smells envelop you,” I get closer to putting a shotgun on lay-away. You’re ruining it for the rest of us jackass. Just knock it off with all that bullshit and get the hell off the court. The rest of us are trying to have a ball game here.
The reason this crap bothers me so much, is it completely betrays the reason we should write. A writer who writes a sentence like “the river flowed angrily, down to the wide open maw of the patiently waiting sea,” hasn’t written a sentence at all. They’ve written a thinly veiled plea for attention. Good writing is not about the writer. If you write something and imagine your face on the bestseller list, the shotgun I want is $82.99 in the sporting goods department.
However, if you write because you want to give something to your fellow man, I’m with you. Lace up your kicks kid and come on the court with us.
What everyone must understand is that good writing comes from an unselfish place. It comes from a place inside of you that all of us have, whether we know it or not. It comes from that part of you that occasionally gives money to the homeless or gives a friend a ride to work. Good writing comes from that part of you that mows your neighbor’s lawn while they’re on vacation. It comes from the part of you that cries at the funeral of someone you didn’t even know. Good writing is these things. Good writing is a need to give, not to receive.
And sadly, the people who want to receive are fucking it up for the rest of us. People are refusing the services of writers more and more. Because they’ve forgotten what good writing is really like. They used to sit on the bleachers by the court and watch us play because it amused them, entertained them, allowed them a reprieve from their ordinary lives. When we played we put our hearts into the game and sweated all over the court. Now we’re loafing on defense and throwing up bullshit jumpers that just clank off the rim. People don’t enjoy watching that shit. So they’re slowly trickling away to other places, and this park is getting emptier every night.
So please, for the love of god, check yourself and ask “Why am I doing this?” If the only thing you can imagine is a big house and no day-job, get the hell off the court. If you imagine the Oprah book club and interviews on Good Morning America, get the hell off the court. If you imagine fat paychecks and private jets, get the hell off the court. The rest of us are trying to put on a show. The rest of us write because we want to give, not receive.
Reason number two, the selfish reason: I write because I have nightmares.
When I go to bed, there’s a route that I have to take, down into the bottom of my mind. And along the way is an enormous hay-field. The scene is always the same. Its midnight in the field, crickets are chirping, the wind is blowing gently through the grass. It’s almost peaceful and serene.
But far away, down at the end of the field, there’s a stables. And every night, when I have to pass through, the wind carries a sound up to me, the sound of horses kicking at the stable door.
Most nights, I keep walking, and I make it to a safer place. But on some nights, the noises are hypnotic, and I stop and listen. I wait to hear what will happen. These are the nights when they break down the door. These are the nights where they stampede. They charge out, right towards me. On these nights, I’m unable to move. My body is locked down and I become a statue of sorts. I can only stare them down while they come.
Every horse in the pack looks a little different. Some look like normal horses. Some are only the skeletons of horses. Some have the heads of other animals. Some can talk in human voices, although they never do, they just scream at me. The pack of horses changes each time they get out. Each time there are variations. But the lead horse, the one carrying the charge, is always the same. Its fur is black. It has no eyes. When it reaches me, there are long streaks of blood running down its cheeks from its empty eye sockets. Its tail is a severed arm. Its hooves are pig skulls.
They never trample me. I don’t come close to death in these nightmares. It’s just the proximity. Being that close to those things is unbearable. It’s insanity trying to take shape, to take hold. Those horses are fucking mad. I don’t think I’ll ever know what they’re mad about, or with. But I know they are. When they get near me, they are furious, and it’s unbearable.
My wife wakes me up most of the time. On nights where she’s out of town at a conference or something like that, the nightmare just continues until my mind can’t handle it and wakes up on its own. And when I sit up, let my brain clear, and get out of bed, there’s always the need to go do something, the need to just get up and move around. I have to give the horses time to calm down and get back in the stable. Most nights, I find myself hitting away on a keyboard, hoping something good will come from the lack of sleep. Sometimes I end up with a story. Sometimes I end up watching late night talk shows.
In the end, they go back to the stables, and I can sleep well for a few nights. But they’ll get out again. I’ll stop and listen and stare down-field like I always do. I’ll wait, locked in place, for them to reach me. And that lead horse? The one with no eyes and bloody cheeks? Out of all the horses in that hateful little herd, it’s always the only one with a saddle.