Why I Write by Jacqui Goldstein

It doesn’t have to hurt.  Unless you want it to be good.

Sometimes after dinner I leave the dishes to rot and mount the stairs to the computer like one of the Children of the Corn.  I type as though taking dictation.  This writing is like watching a movie in a darkened theater– my eyes see the characters in my scene, not the letters on the screen.  I love those characters. They are my creatures and yet they surprise me. My husband says good night and I keep typing until my fingernails click on the keys and the fact that I hear them, hear anything at all, tells me I’m back in this world.  Only then will I notice that my feet are freezing because the heat turned off hours ago and it’s three in the morning.

Three in the morning is a great time to write because the phone never rings, breakfast lunch and dinner are hours away and anything else can wait.   But morning writing equals guilt as I ignore my husband, again, let the phone go to voice mail, run late for an appointment, all to produce – what? Something I love until I leave it for a day to cool off.  Then I start to pick it apart.   Go to the thesaurus.  Change an adjective.  Move the words this way and that around the sentence.  No, that ruins the rhythm.  No, forget the whole thing.   Line the bird cage with the hard copy, toss the document into the dump folder, and answer the damn phone.

For me the hard, painful miserable part of writing is revision.  My patient first readers know that I write draft after draft, weeding and changing, which requires going back and changing other stuff, and likely as not deciding the first draft was better.  Too many choices!   Choosing which chapters to keep and which to leave out is harder than making the guest list for a wedding.

Which leads inexorably to why I write, if it’s so hard and it hurts so much.   I write because the work engages me fully.  When I’m in the middle of a piece, time stops and outside cares and worries disappear.  And then there’s catharsis.  Every once in a while, wounded, furious, or sad, I send forth torrents of words, the dam broken, from the place where writing starts.

 

Bronx born Jacqueline Grandsire Goldstein attended Fordham University. She has taught high school English in New York City Public schools, sharing her love of Jane Austen and creative writing. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives with her husband in Westchester NY. Her novel, Ms. Murphy’s Makeover, is currently being workshopped at the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute. Her work has appeared in The Westchester Review.

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5 thoughts on “Why I Write by Jacqui Goldstein

  1. Great piece Jackie! I’ve had those days where the dirty dishes are filling the sink and my husband gets home from a 12 hour day at work and asks “What’s for dinner?” and I answer “There’s hamburger meat in the freezer you can defrost.” You really captured how our writing can consume us and in that space of time nothing else matters.

  2. I’m there with you on major revision, I sit down at the laptop, take a deep breath and plunge in. Now editing paragraphs, strangely I quite like that, its like shaping stone, chipping away word by word, comma by comma until I have reached the point of satisfaction with the flow of words and ideas.

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