Why I Write

Why I Write

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This morning when I got to work, there was a basketball in the street, right in the dip where the street ends and the driveway to my school begins and I thought there isn't much more sad than a basketball tossed aside on a sunny Monday morning. I wondered about the kids who played ball earlier. Was it last night? Michigan weather has turned to spring, and nobody comes inside before 9 o'clock at night anymore. Bed times, and homework be damned. Or did the kids pick up a game while waiting for the bus this morning? Were they friends? Strangers? Strangers made friends because of the game? I wonder if this was a "good weather" tradition that began in Kindergarten and now, the weekend of PROM, the last days of high school, they play their last 3-on-3, before finals, before graduation, before college, before work, before whatever it is that made them drop the ball and let it roll, forgotten, not enough steam to get itself up to the school playground when chubby fingers could pick it up and feel delight in its bounce. 

I keep a small orange notebook in my bag and when I walk into the school library where I work. I pull it out and write, "basketball in the street on a Monday is depressing." I draw a box next to it, as I do with all my entries. When I write about it - if I write about it - I will put a check mark in that box and then cross it out with a yellow highlighter. For now, writing just that small amount eases me. I don't know how else to explain it. I jot an observation, a feeling, a thought down, and my psyche, my ego, my soul, I don't know which it is, but I feel better. I breath easier. "You noticed, Callie. That's all for now. You don't have to do anything else with it now." I write to ease myself into my life.

There is a job opening at a school in my area. It's a humanities position for 5/6th graders. Ideal candidates must be comfortable exploring ambiguity with the students when it comes up in a story. I think of an afternoon in a 7th grade classroom when my students and I discussed Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Should we read them? How should we read them? Through what kind of lens? How do these books change us? I remember the day I turned an English lesson into a quest, similar to the one Bilbo Baggins was afraid to go on, but knew he had attempt. Another time, I turned my classroom into a courtroom, and everyone had documents sealed in manila envelopes they would need to read carefully in order to prepare a case for or against some of the characters in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I make another box in my notebook and write, "I want to teach ambiguity" next to it. 

A boy comes into the library this morning. He is 6 or 7 years old. He wants to check out a Captain Underpants book, but I cannot find one for him, so he takes crayons I have on the table, breaks several in half with his teeth and hands, then throws them in the air. He kicks a bin with stuffed animals and they pounce all over. He charges me. I stay where I am and let him charge because if I move, I'm afraid he'll hurt himself. 

A little later a girl cries because I can't find any books about unicorn bones. She heard unicorns were real, and she needs proof. She's looking for fossils. 

The class leaves, and I pull my notebook out again. "C.Underpants/unicorn bones/fossils" is what I write. As the day goes on, it will get more difficult for me to write these observations down. I will grow more weary. Writing them down won't feel so much like I'm doing something to ease myself into my life, and that's when I know it'll be time to find a story. When I doubt that there is anything there, then I know it's time to look around for unicorn bones.

I write because I believe in those bones. I believe they are haunted and glorious and so I keep looking for them, not knowing where they go or where they fit into the big picture, but I will hang on to them until I find out. Until I can make an imprint: like basketball circles on a leaf or in the dirt from being slammed down in frustration, broken pieces of purple wrapping from a crayon that has been stomped into the floor. I pick these bones up, and I dust them off - pieces of a puzzle I don't know if I can make any sense out of, but I'm willing to try. 


Why do you write? We'd love to read your answers to this question, feel free to post them in the Facebook group! 

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Slow Writing with Ashlee Gadd

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Slow Writing with Jennifer Batchelor

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