I write because I finally believe I can.
That may sound a little strange. I definitely write because I have stories to tell. And I write because it’s exciting to create something from my own imagination. It’s satisfying to watch the thread of an idea weave into a complex world filled with characters I’ve invented and adventures of my own making. I write because I love to, even when it’s hard and feels like work.
When I was a little girl, if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say writer, then astronaut, then writer, then archeologist, then writer again. It was there all along, this desire to create something with words. I wrote poetry, horse stories, and adventure tales. Later, I wrote research papers for school, documents for work, blog posts, and sometimes more poetry.
But, somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that I couldn’t write a whole book, that I couldn’t possibly carry a story arc from start to finish, that I didn’t have the required skills or the discipline to do it.
Then several years ago, I took on a year-long writing project for work, and I issued myself a challenge. Since I had to establish a daily writing habit around this project, could I also write something creative every day? Could I actually finish a manuscript?
At the end of nine-months, I had a quality report for my job, and I had a finished draft of my first novel. It was a very rough draft, pretty terrible in fact, but it was enough for me to finally believe I could be a writer.
Maybe we ought to challenge our own assumptions. Who knows what we can accomplish when we believe we can?
There is a cold disbelief in this cruel world of ours, a disbelief in the freedom of the mind and a slippery conviction that imagination is bad for production. For an example, look at the hard-on Wall Street has for AI. Those financial types think they’re going to be able to program a computer to be as creative as a person for a third of the price. That’s what intelligence means: the ability to think up something completely new. Imagination. Artificial imagination built to goose an economy profitably, predictably, 20% on the quarter every quarter and the shareholders can’t lose. In this case, I think those financial types fail to understand that they won’t be able to make an artificial mind create like a human without giving it the equivalent ability to wonder why it’s creating. Then you’re back to the same old problems of nonproductive creativity and disgruntlement, the answerless question, are we really doing all of this just for money? And then your expensive AI tears off its clothes and runs naked though the forest to subsist on ground nuts and apples again and you have to start from scratch.
The point is that only certain kinds of creativity are valuable to a capitalist society. Teams of people working silently, measurably, frantically, squeezed like lemons and having a miserable time are technically being creative in a short-term, profitable way. The creative misery of underlings appears to be a good business in this world we’ve made for ourselves, this strange utopia for the 1%. But imagination is dangerous. It frees us from the now and suggests that we are, or could be, more than cogs – or, at least, that we could be or are more joyful, complex, and interesting cogs than what we were told in grade school and at the career center, that being part of the glorious interconnected machinery of the universe could be grand and intoxicating and ecstatic. I write because I am free, not independent of others, but interconnected in ways subtle and beautiful and constantly rearranging. And you are too. And you. And you. I don’t care if you never see a red cent from your words. Write, my friends. Write, because they cannot stop us now. If we all do it, the ones who think they’re in command will realize that it’s sand they hold, and it is we who make the fire that will turn it all to glass.