By Amy MacKinnon
We each write for different reasons, though last week I couldn't possibly tell you mine. I've been wondering about this a lot lately, why it is we writers are eager to rip away the cloak that shields us from public scrutiny and misinterpretation. Most would tell you it isn't for the money (how many published authors earn a living wage from writing?); it's not for the glory (try facing down an empty bookstore or sitting next to a New York Times bestselling author at a signing); it's not for any sense of immortality (I'm still hoping this one might be true among my descendents).
Last Friday, Patry Francis, Lynne, and I wondered at this conundrum over tea and cakes (for those of you wondering, Patry's doing well and gorgeous to boot). When each of us started writing, we hoped against all reason that we would eventually sell our books, that they would be read by people who connected with them, and maybe one of us hoped for more beyond that-- a scenario too magnificent to lay down black-and-white. Haven't you done the same? And we've been lucky, we know it and are grateful. But this isn't a business for the faint of heart. As Gail Konop Baker once wrote to me as consolation after a particularly awful day, "This can be a tear your heart out kind of business." Some days I've truly feel that wrenching in my chest.
But I think I finally figured out why I write: I don't understand a world in which there is unfathomable pain.
I wrote about the real Precious Doe, Erica Michelle Marie Green who was killed by her parents; about my friends' four-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine, who died of a brain tumor; about the unbearable weight some cops have to bear when dealing with the seediest aspects of our society. Why is the world like it is? Why?
I don't write to entertain readers for vanity or fame. I write because, at least on the page, I can give each of these people some measure of comfort in a world of my making. It's all I can do.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
By Amy MacKinnon