Meg Mitchell Moore: Why I Write

Meg Mitchell Moore: Why I Write

[Journalist/novelist Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals (presentation/review) was praised as “a promising debut” (Publishers Weekly) when released last spring. This spring — on May 29, 2012 — the author offers So Far Away praised by Publisher’s Weekly: “This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.”

The Divining Wand has scheduled an interview with the author on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 where you’ll learn much more about So Far Away however, in today’s guest post, Meg cites a legendary journalist/author to help explain why she writes.]

Why I Write

I once heard a quote about writing that really struck me. It went something like this, “Writing is the only thing that when I’m doing it I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” When I sat down to write this post, I thought I would try to dig out the exact quote. Laboring under the misconception that it came from Gertrude Stein, I searched through a bunch of her quotes, trying to untangle those gloriously complex sentences to find what I was looking for. Nada. (Indeed the statement seemed, in retrospect, to be a remarkably succinct one for Stein: I should have known.)

As it turns out I had the right initials, wrong writer. It was Gloria Steinem who said it, in a November, 1965, article for Harper’s called, “What’s In It For Me?” As an nonsubscriber I am not privy to the entire article but the bit that I was able to access told me that Steinem is right on the money. Here’s the quote:

But for me, it’s the only thing that passes the three tests of métier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening.

Yes, yes, and yes! Is it bad guest-post-writing etiquette to say, “What she said!” and move on with my day? Maybe, but I don’t think I could articulate my thoughts about writing as well as Steinem articulated hers. Really, she nails it.

Life is so busy for so many of us that it’s a very common affliction to have our minds on anything but the task at hand. I am certainly guilty of that. When I am folding laundry I feel like I should be stretching my hamstring. Walking the dog? Usually thinking about the laundry. Grocery shopping? Field trip permission slips or the Scholastic book orders. Or walking the dog. You get the picture.

But writing does not allow for that sort of divided attention: it demands all of us, for a concentrated amount of time, and giving in to that demand—and overcoming the fear the Steinem talks about—is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s something that we writers should feel very fortunate to experience, because not everybody gets to do so on a regular basis.

The next line in Steinem’s article says, “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” Yes again! Who among us (be honest!) doesn’t agree with that sometimes? I’m a runner, and I have made the comparison between running and writing more than once, here on this site and elsewhere, so I won’t bore this audience with that again. But. I will say that usually, having run feels better than actually running. Often, having written feels better than actually writing. Bravo to Steinem for saying so, for saying all of it, and bravo to all the writers who are out there plugging away at it, day after day after day. I bet if we could ask her now we could get even Gertrude Stein to agree.

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