Congo · Creative writing · Memorable words

safer than stealing

The reasons why artists do what they do, maybe not the overt suject of today’swriter’s  almanac but at least a running theme in three of the stories sent out. I’ve been thinking about why I write, especially given the fact that for a blog that’s updated as often and as much as this one is, it’s not really, as Brando would say, “a contender”.


“I took up writing because I needed money. And I continued to write because it’s safer than stealing and easier than working.” ~Robert Heinlein

“I work in whatever medium likes me at the moment.” ~Marc Chagall

(Thornton) Wilder told (David) McCullough how he chose a subject for his plays or novels: He would find something he wanted to learn more about, go out and see what was written about it, and if there wasn’t much or it wasn’t good, he would write it himself.


I’m thinking about writing because I’m leaving my home, where I tend to write constantly. Everything here inspires me, from the people to the weather, the landscape, the dust and the pollution, the electricity and the candles, stories and even just lying there, in the morning, listening to the puppy whimpering at my door and the crows landing violently on the tin-roof.


I write because it’s something I’ve always done from a profound need to express myself, and lay out for everyone to see the way I experience the world. Even as a five-year old kid, I was writing very long letters to my parents, my grandparents, my friends, mostly to share ideas, thoughts, new things I’d learned, and what I had been up to. In one of them, I ask my grandmother if she knew that female scorpions bite off the head of the  males after mating, in a mis-informed bit of animal-world trivia that made me smile. Even back then, I had conversation ADD, loved to write, and loved animals. Things start early. In a letter to my father, I make a very tedious argument about him needing to return my Tintin comic book because he had borrowed it for two weeks because a grownup would have had ample time to read the book in two weeks.


I guess I’m worried about what I am going to write about when I leave. Not worried so much as missing all the inspiration that I feel here. With Congo, I write because I know it’s such a rare place, such an out-of-the way, unknown part of the world, that anything I write is precious, almost. And probably unfairly, I feel like the only person writing about my country with such excitement and such love. I’m working on a non-fiction book of essays about Congo, which I’m going to come back to work on in October, until about January.


Until then, I can write about the rest of my travels and my plans. I will write about my three weeks in France, traveling with mom, and that is going to be wonderful. We’ll be picking wild fruit and berries, filling bottles at natural springwaters rushing into rivers. Making tea from garden herbs, eating cheeses made by our friends, drinking the milk of cows that have names like Marguerite and Paquerette and sleep up the road from our stone house, in warm, comfortable barns.

As wonderful and idyllic as that sounds, France has been written about so much, the challenge of making it unique, or original, or even something people have never heard or read about, which is something I feel when I write about Congo, is not there. I like the fact my country is so out of the way, and I like writing about things that are strange and unique, have their own characters and kinks, things that are irregular, customs that seem illogical, small inefficiencies and random moments. Sometimes when I’m in places that are too neat and predictable, my inspiration dries up.


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