Why I Write

It’s about Power.

As a writer of fiction, I can create a city, a village, a country, a world. I can fill it with characters that I love or love to hate. I can imbue them with a certain amount of free will and, if I don’t like how they use it, I have the power of the eraser or delete key. The characters I create may be human or they may be animals, even mechanical beings, or a combination of these.  I can ride down a country road feeling the fluid strength of the steed beneath me, enjoying the bucolic scene of field and meadow, knowing that around the next bend there is a plot twist that will change my story, transform the world. I can change the weather from stormy to sunny and back again. In short, I am god.  I can wander through forests of words and chop down the one I want to take to a sentence I’m constructing. I can plunge into oceans of emotions to catch the one that will give my character motivation to propel the story forward.

Similarly, when I write memoir or creative non-fiction, I take an event from the headlines or from memory and, while sticking to the reality of it, invent or reimagine dialogue I did not hear or do not remember. I give the incident a spin to emphasize the part I think is important or transformative. It is my story told my way. This kind of writing does require research to authenticate it. I enjoy research because it opens the discovery of things I did not know and enriches knowledge that I then mine for other stories.  I prefer fiction and poetry because I am not bounded by facts, annoying facts that constrict my imagination.

Writing is an inexpensive form of entertainment and also therapy. The cost of a pencil and paper can set me up for hours and hours of diversion. I disappear into a world I create. Sometimes it is hard for me to resurface, to attend to my daily tasks and the real-life characters, human and animal, who live with me. I am glassy-eyed and slightly incoherent for a time when I leave my writing desk depending on how long I have been immersed in writing. My dear husband can attest to the state of suspended animation that surrounds me. I gave up the idea of writing the great American novel by the time I was thirty. I write for myself because I love to play god.

Butt Paste

I had a collection of nickels that amounted to $541 for every time someone in our group had a list of reasons, admitted, and excused themselves from not writing. I still hear it, I still say it, I still do it. Keep your butt in the chair we chant! Let the cat box go, don’t think about shirts laying in the dryer that need pressing, look at the labels…it reads Perma Press, don’t answer the door when no one knocked…glue yourself to that chair!

While visiting my niece in Illinois one summer after she had her first baby who was then over a year old, I tagged along to Super Walmart one humid afternoon with her to shop for baby things. While I held my first and only great-niece, I watched Tarah check off her list of items she dropped by armloads into the cart. She twists her mouth to the side and finally spies another item, grabs it, and drops it in the cart. I could not help but catch the phrase ‘Butt Paste’. Ja-Jing! I bought four boxes to tote back to Tucson for our group’s next writing session. Here is the problem solver right here in this bright yellow box with a warning in red letters.

Once back in the Old Pueblo and sitting at the table, I pulled out my neatly wrapped gifts in pink tissue paper. “Girls, this will take care of our woes.” We all believed in this yellow and white tube, with a bald baby and a blue blanket draped across his sweet little legs. We were ecstatically giddy. We did not hesitate nor doubt the power from this little squeezable paste. We each propped this motivational product on our desks in plain sight. This was our miracle worker for us to crank out our stories, finish our masterpieces, compile collections of poetry, and tick on like the pink rabbit all from a simple tube called Butt Paste.

Seventeen years later, my great-niece will be off to her first year of college, and this little tube in its box still sits on my desk as I write, hum-haw, and write. It reminds me of the earnest purpose behind the name. Without Butt Paste, our continual writing of stories, poems, and numerous other genres could not have formed Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets.