For a while, I was writing in my blog every day. That was back when I was doing it "secretly." In quotes, because I always sent everything to my sister Alexis, who reliably said, "SOPHIE YOU ARE THE BEST WRITER IN THE WORLD LET'S BE BOYFRIENDS." That was, for a while, enough for me, and I was in a pretty good practice.
But then I started posting things on the Facebook -- telling people to read my musings about croissants and curiosity and cats and cats and cats and cats. And then I felt a little pinch of pressure. I wanted everything to be must-read material. I wanted at least 20 people to validate everything I put into words by pushing "Like" on it over the Internet.
Then the pressure got bigger! I'd sit down, and I couldn't write. I started going on "thinking runs." What can I write about that people would care to read? I would think. Maybe I will write about this run, I would think. And then I'd think, Has there ever, in the history of time, been any compelling writing written about running? NO THERE HAS NOT. PEOPLE NEED TO STOP WRITING ABOUT RUNNING. IT IS SO BORING. If people wanted to think about running in any capacity, they would just go running. The reason people read is to AVOID things like running. Then I'd come home and I lie flat on the floor, and I avoid things like writing, by reading. Then I'd think, Man. These writers are great at writing. Maybe I should just let THEM do it.
But I had it all wrong. You don't write because people need you to write. You write because YOU need to write.
I have this very vivid memory of sitting on the train during the summer, when I was on my voyages, drifting from town to town, in this delusional lack-of-sleep stupor, and I was typing about birds. My obsession with birds is totally unnatural and nobody really cares about it. Sometimes people say, "Hey Sophie, why do you love birds so much?" completely unprepared for the 30-minute lecture that is about to follow. Because let me tell you, the reasons are manifold and complicated and VERBOSE. In any case, this piece I was writing was something I knew to be absolutely uninteresting to everyone in the whole wide world, including those Audubon-walking ladies.
While I was writing, I found this word, "slablike," that gave me great pleasure to write. I erased it and wrote it again and erased it and wrote it again over and over and over. I was numb to the rest of the world; the joy in writing "slablike" was like an obsessive-compulsive fetish. It was because of the way the consonants whacked each other; the hard, dull, short a in the middle sounding exactly like the word should sound. "Slablike" isn't even a real world. In the moment, though, it was better than a boyfriend.
I write because I need to. I have always needed to, and I will need to until the day I die. I write to stay awake; to stay alert; to be the most alive.