This phrase is what always comes to mind when I think about writing or more specifically why I share my writing. The phrase comes from Eve Ensler’s film by the same name, the best film I know about writing. In the film, the writers do not want notoriety – most of them have that. They don’t want fame or readers or to overcome obscurity. They don’t want to make great social changes or create political upheaval.
They want to change us, their readers. They want their language to reach into us with the claws and caress of story. They want us to hear, to glimmer at understanding, to be compelled and shaped.
This is the power of language, of writing, of story.
This is what I want as a writer. This is all I work for.
Sure, sales, and fame, and the ability to pay off debt. The chance to be more than obscure. These things I want, too – but these are the base things, the banal ones, the perks. They are not my purpose, and I hope they never will be.
When you read about Nelson or Letty or Berthier, I want you to feel the way their stomachs turn each time someone is sold or moved away. When you see Lucy breastfeeding the master’s child, I want you to see the way she makes her face placid for him and breaks it open with love as she gazes at the baby girl. I want you to know these people and to be changed by them, as I have.
Because writing is effect – the way our hearts race as we hope to see people free or safe, the way we cry when we are pulled from those we love, the way we rage because we can do little else.
So if others want to write to be known or to make money, let them use their words in that way. I will take my path with the quieter voices – the voice of a Jewish carpenter, the voices of women who have killed for reasons I will never fathom, the voice of a Czech man who knew why a man might become an insect, the voice of an enslaved women writing back to her master about how the children in her slave school are not learning.
Because it is the stories that matter, not me. Never me. The stories. The way they twist inside us and help us know.
What do you hope for as a writer?