Why do you write?
Lately, in class, I’ve been learning about why some of the greatest writers of all time liked to make up stories and poems; ya know, the guys like Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare.
Well, here’s the thing: everyone is afraid of dying and being forgotten. Not to be depressing but I think that has been something humans have thought about for a while. That’s part of the reason that people would have kids back then–it was a great way to keep the family name alive, to keep your memory alive, to not be forgotten. But really, lets be honest, having a bunch of kids with your genes are great but they’re not going to make people remember you completely. People can see your kids and forget you (and I’m not arguing this is a bad thing!) And what if you don’t really want to have a family? Then is your name just going to vanish for good?
So what does this have to do with writing…?
Well, if you’re a writer you’ll probably agree that your book can be like your baby. It has bits of you in it, you’re so proud of it, and it’s just so good! People can feel this way about anything they create. I’m sure that great painters and sculptures feel the same way about their art that we do about our words. Words are like offspring that don’t change.
Shakespeare speaks of how his words will outlast stone and keep throughout the course of time. He praises someone he loves in it to keep his beloved alive (sonnet 55). That’s one of the reasons that they greats would write: their words could keep them alive in memory. It might not beat being alive in person but it definitely beats being forgotten forever.
And in a way, it shows just how big headed people like Dante and Shakespeare were. Shakespeare seemed pretty confident that he was going to be read till the end of time. He was good and he knew that if he put the person he loved in a poem, that person was going to be remember till the end of time (which is neat because, English majors still do!:). Dante also thought a lot about who he mentioned in his story and the people he really doesn’t like, he sort of ignores in his writings. There are times he’ll say things “the people that I didn’t really recognize” and will avoid naming them, while talking in length about other people that he really admired. He could keep people alive through his writing because he was just that good, and he knew it. What’s really crazy is that the people he mentions are actually remembered, I mean, I’m a little American girl and I’m learning about all these crazy Italian guys that Dante talks about. And the people he dissed by not mentioning them…not even historians know that much about them. Wow. Writing just got a lot more serious!
Writing for immortality…
It’s certainly an attractive idea!
I think it’s rather inspirational. I mean, lately I’ve been wondering how many people will buy my books, what should I do for cover art, should I e-publish or not…and I still think those are valid questions but when I think about other authors’ question like “who should I keep alive through my words?” I remember that writings stories is a whole lot more than just making a fast pace plot and some sweet characters. It’s about quality that will last.
It can be about making something so beautiful that it lasts forever.