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Tuesday Aug 30, 2016

Why I Write


Why I Write

When my novella, The Man with the Dog, was chosen as a finalist in a writing contest, I was asked ‘Why I Write.”

Why do I write? That depends on the subject and intention at hand.

When I was in kindergarten, I never even played with crayons, yet I became a painter after a great Zen master unleashed the artist within. When it came to grammar, I somehow coasted through high school. As a college freshman, a professor had given the class a short story assignment. I dreaded getting the grade. But, to my surprise, I got an A for content and F for grammar. I had never seen beyond a C+ on an English paper. This insightful encouragement for what I had to say opened my eyes. In an instant grammar for the first time began to make sense. Years later, I became a writer. There seems to be a pattern here.

In my thirties, when I was in the public relations and magazine business, I wrote to influence and entertain. The writing could be challenging, but I was a gun for hire; such work for me was not from passion.

Later in my forties, when I wrote my bestselling The Magnificent Book of Kites (inspired by Bucky Fuller), I had an audience in mind, as the book was instructional with essays for the hobbyist. (Note: Literary agents and kiting experts informed me with sincerity that no mainstream publisher would be interested; my book was on a NYC publisher’s backlist for over twenty years.)

Then in my fifties, An Artist Empowered, a ten-year long writing project tested me in ways that I could not have predicted, especially about being clear. My motivation was to remember my dharma road experiences and the hard-earned lessons from my mentor, a great Zen master artist. I also wrote this book to help other artists (of any persuasion and form) assess their value now and how to persevere. The art life is not for the meek. (Note: I had an agent and a publisher for this title, but they were intent on editing out the theme. I had to let them go, which turned out to be the best route for keeping true to my vision and words.)

My novella, The Man with the Dog, grew into a companion piece to An Artist Empowered. The novella written in my sixties is a roman à clef backdrop on how I came to learn those invaluable lessons on my thirty-year odyssey to the wellspring of art. The form of these books amazed me with structures that dovetailed beautifully, as in the art of Japanese wood joinery.

I’m now working on a novel (inspired from An Artist Empowered) that has been percolating for nearly a decade. The setting takes place in an alternate universe. I’m writing to: surprise myself, challenge myself, create an organic reality inhabited with memorable characters, and to explore topics that interest me—from quantum physics, ecology, to politics. Although I’m writing to satisfy myself, not thinking of an audience, fellow travelers are welcome.