tagNon-EroticWhy Do I Write?

Why Do I Write?


I've taken a well-deserved beating over my latest submission for the 2012 Survivor Contest, "Cinderella and the King". I had to confess to one commentator that I had written it in haste and done only little research on it. That story is one of two that I am considering pulling, but, obviously I won't do that until I get around to replacing them with better offerings.

Of course, if the truth were known I don't have the time to think about and write alternative stories to the ones that I have only barely managed to push out; yet I persist in stretching my limited time resource to accommodate what could well become a passion. So, I ask myself, why do I do this? Why do I add this stress to my already crippling schedule? Why do I subject myself to the terror and potential embarrassment of rejection by the readers?

Quite simply, I think I do it for four reasons:

-to test the degree to which my ability to construct sentences may be construed as having a talent for creative writing;

-to give a voice to my thoughts and ideas about the world;

-to escape my real life by creating and inhabiting a world that operates in the way in which I want it to work; and finally,

-to prove to myself that I am not a coward.

The jury is still out on aim Number 1. Thankfully, I have had some wonderful comments in my feedback e-mails and in some of the public remarks about my stories and poems. Most of them speak about my readers' impressions about the open way in which I speak about my life. My own thinking about that is that that is probably driven by the fact that I have reached the stage where I no longer care about that life enough to keep it private on a sex site on the Net; so don't be too impressed, I recognize that I have some work to do.

Ironically, this leads to my second reason for writing. I began this reflection by mentioning the feedback for 'Cinderella'. One commentator spoke about his disappointment in reading that after having formed an impression about me from 'Trying Times' while the other lambasted my lamentable lack of research about Nigerian tribal names. Actually, he didn't lambast, but I like the sound of the running l's here.

In any event, the criticism of giving a Yoruba name to the child of two Ibo people fed into two of the reasons that I write. One is that I want to talk about the world as I think it ought to be. I have chosen Soren as one of the names that I'd give my son should I ever have him. I don't think that Soren will ever be on the list of most popular boys' names in Jamaica; but I celebrate my right to name my child whatever I choose. If I wanted to go with Siegfried, the Germanic name meaning "powerful silence or peaceful victory", or with Bidziil, the Navajo name meaning "he is strong" then, thank God, the only problem that I would have is in helping my friends to pronounce my baby's name. There would be no question of having to be careful to follow any rules prescribed by my tribe or kinship group. I think that such prescriptions should have been left behind in the last century. I think that if people want to name their children something then they should have the right to do so if they are not pushing the boundaries of good taste.

Of course, the question of who determines what good taste is then arises. I had to admit to the commentator that I did not know enough about Nigerian names to know which name belonged to which tribe. Given that, the admission that I know even less about how violent the feelings of an Ibo couple would be toward a Yoruba name for their son should come as no surprise. Perhaps they feel as violently as some people felt about the couple who named their son Adolf Hitler Campbell and one of their daughters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.

I remember that my eyebrows shot up when I read about this couple and I wondered what sort of people they must be. To be honest, even as I type this, I have found that my eyebrows are knitted in disgust thinking about them. To my mind, naming their children as they have was phenomenally unwise because in most sectors of society such names will prove to be liabilities to the children's efforts to get ahead in life. The reason that they will be liabilities is because most of us feel that these names are in extremely poor taste and we wonder what sort of people would label themselves in this way. In thinking this way we would be blaming the children for the sins of the parents in the first place and then, after that, for the effects of their upbringing if they were not to change these names. So, we add yet another moral question to our daisy chain.

To move back to my central topic of why I write though, I want to link this point of someone's name being a label for self with the issue of taking a political stand and painting a picture of the world as we feel that it should be. Now that I've thought about it some more, I can see where it is idealistic to want an Ibo couple to have no qualms about naming their son a Yoruba name. I saw nothing wrong with it when I was first challenged yesterday, because I have stated publicly before that I feel that we should live and let live if there is no harm done. In thinking it through however, it has just occurred to me that the Campbells may well feel the same way.

So, the issues of anarchy and the decision about who determines when harm has been done arise. Through writing I may feel free to give voice to how I feel about the world, but what about other people's rights to do the same. Through writing I can vent my political beliefs through the words and actions of my characters, but so too can others. Through my stories I get a chance to create and sustain a world according to how I would do it were I God, or if I had the courage, or the personality, to run for political office. I get to dispense justice to the people whom I do not like without consequences, and I get to reward the nice people (my friends and me in disguise?) handsomely with abiding love, fabulous riches, happy families, successful careers and satisfying sex even if they do not look like supermodels.

With this realization, the last of my motives for writing comes under scrutiny. I think that it is very important to me that I say the things that I want to say and that I do not do this anonymously; an ironic statement since I say what I feel I must under the pseudonym 'Cinner'. With this in mind, the question of my courage emerges. The desire to be heard may be the spark that lit my conflagration, but the fuel behind it is that I cannot allow myself to stop until I have said it all; for to do that will prove to me that I am a coward. Continuing to submit my thoughts for public scrutiny has become a character-building exercise for me. It tells me that I am unafraid to raise potentially unpopular views to controversial issues and it assures me that I am above the need for the good opinion of others. Of course, none of this is true. No matter what I may say elsewhere the truth is that I am overjoyed with each sign of support from my readers and I am afraid of my inability to just leave things alone. The thing about proving one's courage though is that one must fight through fear in order to prove oneself worthy of being labeled a success.

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