Why I write

I’m not a brilliant writer or an illustrious blogger or any other kind of awe-inspiring wordsmith.   I dabble.  I experiment.  I try my hand at putting a sentence together that can be successfully linked to another sentence and eventually connected in an entire paragraph that makes sense from beginning to end.   Sometimes I succeed, most times I don’t.  It doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother others, those wordsmithing types. And it doesn’t bother me as much as it probably ought to.  I don’t write to dazzle the blogosphere with my rousing sentence structure and breathtaking placement of punctuation marks.  I don’t write to unsettle the political arena with my very opinionated outlook on the state of the world or to thrust some kind of parenting know-how into the minds of clueless moms and dads everywhere. 

I write because it’s what I do. 

I went years without writing for myself.  My time was then being spent compiling research papers and studying for final exams.   The writing assignments were dictated and involved only the aspects of honest-to-goodness facts.  Imagination had no place in my life at that time.  Inventiveness belonged to the historical figures I studied and the industrialists who had visions of greatness were my subjects.  These were the central figures in my writing.  Not anyone I actually knew.  Especially not myself.  And during this time, I became not only lost, but bored.  And boring.

I lost the ability to take risks.  Writing had become such a structured project for me, with a deadline and the stress over having points taken off for incorrect margins.  The assembly of my story was not meant to entertain, but to inform.  Sometimes, I would rather just be entertained in an informative kind of way.

Simply uninspired by my ordinary life, I now look for tangible, touchable objects to stem my creativity.  I feel like I’m lacking in this department.  Far too often I have found myself staring at a blank white screen, willing myself to write something, anything. Over time my memories have begun to fade out, my recollection of events has become jostled and thrown completely out of sequence in relation to the actual order of things.   In trying to recall the details that seemed so important at the time, I only manage to baffle myself further.

 I have a number of keepsakes and mementos that motivate me to write about precise events or specific figures in my life.  But only one item in my possession inspires me to write for the sake of writing.  And when I put my hands on it over 14 years ago, I never imagined that it would have such a permanent place in my life. 

In 1996, when my family moved to Florida, we lived with my grandparents while our house was being built in a town nearly an hour away.  Most of my time that summer was spent watching videos and reading books.  My grandmother was an Ingalls, a distantly related and much younger cousin of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House series of books, and she had a box collection of all of the Little House books.  I read every single one of those books within a week.  After three months of living with my grandparents, my family moved into our newly built house and I left the Little House books behind.

My grandmother passed away in October of 2008.  Most of her grandchildren are grown with kids of our own now so my grandfather invited all of the great-grandchildren to choose a doll from Grandma’s collection.  Grandma also had eight kids of her own so I figured any other items left behind would be sorted out by them.  A few of my aunts were aware of my love of writing and, to my surprise, they all decided that I should get the Little House books. 

But on one condition – that I continue writing.

My Little House books are still stored in their original box and I’ve placed them in a pretty prominent spot in my bedroom.  I don’t treat the books as if there is some sort of clause attached to them or that there is some kind of prerequisite to being able to claim them as mine now.  Never have I felt that anything was required of me except that I continue writing.  No deadlines. 

So I make the attempt each day to put down words, one after another, on this sort of virtual paper.  It’s a challenge.  The effort that I have to put into shaping some sort of idea into an actual story is kind of grueling sometimes.  Other times, it is the most worthwhile and gratifying process in the world. 

That kind of satisfaction might not be the tangible object that my creativity relies so heavily upon these days, but it certainly doesn’t take away from its authenticity.  Unseen and indefinable, this small brand of fulfillment could very well be the inspiration I need without having it be held in the palm of my hand.


About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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One Response to Why I write

  1. Debby Washburn says:

    Dena, how well you wrote this and I enjoyed reading
    it! Ienjoyed reading about my Mom again and the influence those books have had on you! They have inspired me also. I always wanted to be a writer but have not been writing. I guess everything is too hard right now. And in case you don’t realize it, you are a very good writer! I enjoy reading your blogs- always interesting! I like tht they are simple and uplifting and informative! I still beleive you should be a published writer. Any chance of school helping you with that?
    Love, Aunt Debby

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