4 min read

What Writers Do

We make you the main character in the storyline of our lives.

Writers have to carry the burden of over-analysis. It is not an option, it is our duty. I suppose that’s what makes a good writer; the ability to dissect everything to separate all the elements.

We scrutinize every part of the world until there is nothing left to see. We notice the way clouds shape-shift and how beautiful the gravel looks when sunlight filters through the trees. We touch tabletops and walls to remember how it feels. We retain the most trivial moments—the faint tear of an autumn leaf, the color of a deep bruise, the first taste of caviar—because we know that one day we might have to describe it in our writing.

To us, everything is alive. For Joanne Harris, the air she breathes slices low and sly around the angles of buildings. For Hemingway, the city of Paris is a moveable feast. For Victor Hugo, the quivering of grass seemed like the departure of souls. These writers personify everything; from the whole of a city to the air they cannot touch.

So if we can make the wind seem human in our writing, then we can make angels out of our lovers; because when a writer falls in love, heaven breaks loose. We can stack lines of poetry like building blocks that rival Babel, write letters so deep that we drown in them, compose songs that break your heartstrings.

We make you the main character in the storyline of our lives; a protagonist that we root for, live for, die for.

We remember moments because we will write them down, somewhere, sometime. We will retain in our minds the time you brought us to the mouth of a dormant volcano but also the way you held us so tightly on our way down, how often you looked back to make sure our feet were on the right rocks, or how much you trembled after giving us your coat.

We keep you in our memories for years and maybe decades. One day you might come across a blog or a book and you might see yourself reflected in our words. We might strangle you with our sentences; stifle you until you can’t breathe. We might make you relive all the things that went wrong, but we might also describe your magnificence through our eyes.

When you love a writer, you have to learn to forgive the words that leave our mouth during fiery quarrels, for we are not meant to be heard but read. We might trip over our own words—too big for the human tongue but just right against paper—but there is always meaning in our drivel. Our thoughts run a million miles a second, but give us a pen or a keyboard and we’ll slow down.

Know that we are never satisfied with our lives, not because it’s terrible, but because we’ve lived a hundred lives in our stories. We have been a toddler, an octogenarian, an astronaut, a baker, a swimmer, either through our own work or someone else’s. We are often told to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but that is what we must do every day. And when we return back to reality, our backs aching from the hours of crouching over laptops or thick Penguin books, we’ll yearn for a new adventure.

We understand that what we do is not the greatest, nor is it the most difficult. We put one word after another in the correct sequence, and that’s the gist of what we do. Tortured writers, that’s what we’re often called. People who bleed in ink and survive on paperbacks as sustenance. We do what we do because it’s what brings us joy, even if it doesn’t bring us much money. We might end up writing magazine columns or billboard headlines; branches stemming off the literary trunk.

We will always surround ourselves with as many words as possible, because even though we are not saving the world, it’s how we save ourselves.

I suppose at the end of the day, we just want to have a voice. We steal from the greats; Dickens, Orwell, Faulkner, Frost, Bukowski. Hoping that one day, after emulating so many of the dead and the living, we’ll discover our own voice; as crisp and sharp as a winter’s day. Until then, hear us out, read our sorrows, laugh at our limericks. Because deep down, we just want someone to read us like a book—someone to dissect us the way we dissect everything else.