David Aaron Porter
I imagine there are people who feel they disappear when they write: they slip out of time, become someone else, paper imaginary walls…when I write, it’s as if I reappear, remember myself, become purposeful; vaporous, I become solid again. My scattered stars align in distinct constellations and hold their place in the sky. I feel a power, a nearly limitless freedom, the way a surfer must when he or she takes off down the face of a wave: I am liberated. I can, for a short while, refrain from tallying my sins. This is the version of myself I like most. I can see it all from here.
If the purpose of meditation is to still oneself, to pause and submerge in one’s private epipelagic zone, then writing is how I do it: everything stops spinning, something alights in my upturned palms, from the mud the mighty lotus blossoms…I still write the lion’s share of my first drafts by hand, and this is part of the ritual – holding the pen, feeling the paper beneath the knuckles of my right pinky, watching the page fill with my illegible handwriting…it stills me, like watching snow fill the street. It’s a feathery quiet. It gives me something to do with my hands.
Revision is fundamental to this process, and perhaps even more meditative than writing a first draft. This reshaping, this pruning and weeding – it might be what gardeners feel after hours on their hands and knees, shifting topsoil to-and-fro with a trowel to create some handmade beauty, to achieve some mastery, however fleeting. And having neither affinity nor aptitude for math, “turning sentences around,” as Hemingway put it, is the nearest I get to whatever satisfaction mathematicians and physicists might derive from their work.
In The Immoralist, Andre Gide writes, “being is occupation enough,” but for me this is unimaginable. Scribo, ergo sum. Writing is who I am, mon plume blanche. If I go too long without it I feel adrift, dejected, unwell…I often write to beat back my depression, to feel as if I’m gaining ground. I can’t think of anything else I want to do this much, anything else I feel so compelled to do. I was born in fortunate skin, and I write to honor this gift.
Writing is a hedge against my harrowing dread of my mortality. I will grow even older, and the infirmities and inflexibilities will arrive like weather, but I’ll still be writing, battling arthritis and irrelevance, trying to come to terms with the impossible losses, the myriad catastrophes for which I am grossly unprepared. “Life is always traveling to a sorrow,” J.P. Donleavy writes in The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B. On my way I’ll have paper and pen with me, not so much as an inoculation but as an analgesic. I will write until the end.
When the task of writing grows inevitably arduous—and seemingly thankless—we must remember why we started. Inspired by George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Why I Write,” this introspective project highlights our motives for writing. Share your story and join the conversation. Live events are produced throughout the diverse cities of Orange County and feature author readings from curated essay submissions.
- Write a 500-word essay explaining why you write.
- Submit via Submittable.