Ramsey Marshall shares the driving force behind his desire to write.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world: the people who write, and the people who haven’t figured out how to write yet. Sadly, some people never do figure it out, or if they do, they don’t take the step because they lack the confidence in themselves and their gifts. But I truly believe that writing is something we all can do.
I could sooner give up talking than writing. Writing is how I process the wonder and tumult of life, how I announce and pronounce, how I refine and challenge my own thinking. But writing is more than that—it’s an internal process with an outcome that moves to the external. It is a window and a door, a wall and open yard under an enormous night sky, with a crescent moon hanging just out of reach.
I think the writing process is really always about working things out. As a writer, I find that I’m always using the written word to suss out my feelings, my reactions to things. Years after I’ve written them, I can look at a short story, and it will suddenly dawn on me. “Yeah, I can see I was working out that thing about my father here. Why didn’t I see it when I was writing this?” I didn’t see it so clearly then, when I was composing the piece, but it is as clear as day upon re-reading, even twenty years later. What was buried in the piece, so deep I couldn’t see it, becomes apparent.
That’s the amazing thing about writing, for me. Some remarkably curious and courageous part of me is often working in the relative shadow of my own subconscious. It is dutifully chronicling away the changes and the experiences, making sense of them, turning them into the positive energy required to make more and better changes, and move me forward. I’ve grown to trust that part. It gives me succor, it feeds me ideas, and it sorts out the wheat from the chaff of experience. It’s always there, constant and hopeful and insightful.
And not just fiction writing. I can actually see the process in the non-fiction I write—in the attitude I take, in the way I present facts and ideas. Even while writing up an interview with someone, I can still discern that ‘working out’ process in play. Pretty interesting stuff. I’m convinced it isn’t unique to me.
The only writing teacher I ever had collaborated with me on my only epiphany about the writing process. I was taking a Creative Writing Class, and was primarily writing the factual stories of my rich and astounding experiences working an emergency mental health outreach job. I was writing about the people and the home visits I made, taking some pride in how accurately and literally I was transcribing them, and still managing to make a story with a beginning, middle and end, and good characters, drawn from real life.
My teacher said, “These are great stories. But they are very sad and dark, very tragic.” My response was that I was writing them as they occurred, that this was reality. He said I should reconsider what I was doing.
“You are the writer, man. Just because that was the way it happened doesn’t mean that’s the way the story should be written. You’re the author, write the story the way it should have ended.” That was a good, old-fashioned light-bulb going off for me.
So I write because I have some strong ideas about how the story ends. I write because it would be a darker and scarier world for me if I didn’t write. I write because I have a jumble of experiences and ideas inside of me, and there is a compelling drive to bring order to the cacophony. I write because I know have something to say, and writing helps me to say it in a clear and compelling way. I write because it is what I know, what I do. I write because it is how I engage the world in a creative, personalized way to better understand how I walk on this earth and connect to others. I write to teach, to entertain, to inform, to entreat … to heal this broken, broken world.
I write because I am a writer, and I simply don’t know what else to do.
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