While my car was with the mechanic today, I walked down to the local Barnes and Nobles. I haven’t been in one for months. I forgot how big they are. After navigating the latest Nook models (there are now three counters full), the magazine racks, the gift items, and the perfect bag for books, I stepped into the aisles, and was struck by a sudden wave of dizziness.
There are so many books.
When I see someone sitting at a table reading, I slow down hoping to peek at the title, but I can’t read all the books in a book store, or even all the titles, or glance at all the covers (although I try).
As a writer, it’s down right depressing. Why, I found myself wondering, add one more book to the pile? There are so many well-written, wonderful books full of amazing worlds, ideas, and feelings. I could chuck my pen and settle in to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors for the rest of my life. But before I could be crushed by self-defeat, by doubt, by hopelessness, and toss my pen for good, I asked myself Why.
Why do I write?
Why does anyone write? To tell stories. Stories that brew inside of minds until they are near to bursting. Words that can’t be contained by flesh and blood, that flow from lips and fingertips, touching ears and hearts. But what of before? Of the time a writer writes and never shares, of countless days—years of penning letter after letter, word after word in a notebook that will never be seen?
I write because I cannot stop. I don’t think I’m alone. It’s very nearly a compulsion, but that’s not quite right. Writing is the eye of the storm. A calm heart. While life rages, while my friend sets herself on fire, while loved ones die and others are dying, slowly; while foundations are shaken and words such as incest and rape swirl in my memories—I write.
There is blood and pain and unshed tears. There is hope in words.
As I roamed the maze of print, I began to wonder what lay beneath each book, each letter—every word carefully formed. The wave of dizziness subsided, and Barnes and Nobles transformed from a bookstore into a graveyard, full of headstones and names and senseless dates with a writer underneath each and every book.
It was rather grim.
And yet, there is life—even in a graveyard. Each and every visitor brings life. For a brief time, the thoughts and emotions that bleed from a writer’s heart into their pen live again—in their readers. Books, I think, keep a moment alive. Whether a book was written to tickle ears or pierce the heart, it will forever remain an open door.
If you are a reader, why do you read? And if you happen to be a writer too—why do you write?