With reference once again to Alain de Botton – The Consolations of Philosophy (2000) this time – I have recently been pondering the universality (or otherwise) of a suggestion about why people write.
So this is an open question to writers generally, about why you do it.
AdB describes Michel de Montaigne’s reason for writing as compensation for having lost his dear friend Étienne de la Boétie. Thus: “…he recreated in another medium the true portrait that La Boétie had recognised. He became himself on the page as he had been himself in the company of his friend. Authorship was prompted by disappointment with those in the vicinity, and yet it was infused with hope that someone elsewhere would understand.” (p148)
This is why I write. I understand this on such deep level that reading it and re-reading it feels like one of those “where have you been all my life?” moments, when things, finally, make a bit of sense.
Purely selfishly, I write for affirmation: that I’m not the only one, that what I think does have a use for others, and that I do have an authentic voice – it’s just better expressed in a different medium from the norm of open plan office banter, school gate chit chat and garden-fence small talk.
I gather this is quite a typical introvert thing: to be exhausted by chit chat and energised by being alone, but I believe it to be more complex than a simple “please let me go back in my cupboard” reflex. It’s more to do with the sheer volume of non-authentic meaningless interaction demanded by the general world being quite exhausting. (Sorry, that was definitely not a deftly-constructed sentence. I hope I haven’t lost you.) Conversely when I find someone to whom, or some medium in which, I can express my authentic voice I can prattle on confidently for hours. And this is why crudely defining introversion as shyness or quietness is so irritating.
Back to the AdB quote about Montaigne: “Authorship was prompted by disappointment with those in the vicinity, and yet it was infused with hope that someone elsewhere would understand” – does this fit for you? Or if not, what does? Why do you write?
This is presumed to be picture of Montaigne. Thoughtful.