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February 22, 2016: Letter to Jay

My audience for the following dispatch is Jay Bartholomew, who is one of my two Chi Gong instructors. Jen Bartholomew is my other instructor. We are now a writing group – we meet on Tuesdays, at 5:00 p.m. at their place. Last week Jay posed the question, why write? We aren’t meeting this week – but I decided that during this time that I’d write Jay a letter, my way of keeping our ongoing conversation about writing going.


Dear Jay,

I spent the morning organizing my winter writing area – the upstairs of our cabin. I have a summer writing area, an entire cabin space. Best to work in our central dwelling in the winter because then I don’t have to worry about firing up a second wood stove.

I had a lot of other work to do, but could not help myself. My rationalization – and it was a good one – is that I would be more efficient in getting writing-related tasks done if I could more easily locate things; for instance, my pen boxes.

In the process of reorganizing, I worked on a mental plan for getting immediate tasks done. My writerly focus is now on the subject of breathing – I am (right now) obsessed with it. I have read several articles – and right now we are going over this subject in A & P class. Sad to say, we are only spending two class periods on this. Anyhow, I have my notes and books neatly arranged and will soon resume studying.

Ahh, but as I well know, this reorganization project (as short lived as it was) was just a form of procrastination. I’m now back to writing. I need to write. I am writing. In a short while I will write something. The question that I’m now considering is one you began considering last week, which is Why Write? I have to say that I was blown away by the fact that before writing about this subject that you said you were going to think some about this. And you did two weeks later as was evidenced by the fact that you wrote and came up with your own self-answers.

I’m now consciously and subconsciously considering this question. This is most appropriate given that I seem to have abandoned my previous more disciplined routine, of writing every morning. Then and now, I procrastinate. Another, related question – why write if one procrastinates beforehand? Why not just go and do something else?

It could be that procrastination is an integral part of the writing process. Maybe things really do need to be in good physical order before taking on the task at hand. Gotta have pens in order, right? And maybe things do need to be in good mental order before taking on the task at hand. The latter perhaps insures that one will be able to better avoid mind-drift. Dunno, maybe I need to accept the fact that procrastination is an integral part of the writing process.

Why write? Back to the original question.

I write (I think) in order to release neurotransmitters. I suspect that in generating and revising that the brain releases differing chemicals. I also suspect that in writing I am generating new neural pathways. After writing, I feel the same way that I feel after doing a long run. There is a sense of accomplishment that borders on the verge of euphoria – the euphoria part has to be chemically-related.

I write in order to organize my thoughts, which are often all over the place. Writing thus slows me down. I tend to move really fast, in a haphazard way, going from one thing to the next. The same is true of my thought patterns. Moving slowly, in a coordinated fashion, has always been difficult for me. I enjoy reading about dancers and how they train, but have not ever been able to put theory to practice.

I write in order to determine what is important to me at a given moment in time. My best writing comes about when I write for surprise, with no preconceived ideas as to what might materialize. Not so much today, because I did want to consider the question Why Write? But I often write for surprise in using the parameters of the topic. I did not, for example, know that I’d write about order and disorder. I am thinking that it’s a topic that I’ll return to at a later date.

I also write in order to remember. I am well aware that my short term memory is starting to go. I have so far been able to compensate for this by forcing myself to mentally repeat names when I meet someone – and also write things down. So recording things has become increasingly more useful. I jot down notes, thoughts, abstract ideas, routinely. If, as I suspect, I am suffering from brain degeneration, I will write about the process.

I write in order to problem solve. Once thoughts are on the page, I can leave them behind and move on to something else. Or I might write further, in an attempt to come up with possible solutions.

I write because I’m driven to write. Actually, I am driven to create. If I could no longer write, I’d draw or paint. My mother was/is an artist. This is where it came from. I don’t know where the drive to create comes from. It is just what I do, day in and day out.

I write, always, with me being my first audience. At the same time, I write in order to communicate what I’m thinking to others. Their reading what I have written slows them down and forces them to pay attention to detail. For instance, when I return from vacation, people often ask me about my trip, I tell them about it, knowing that all they want is a one or two sentence synopsis. But my writing about it provides them with a more lengthy overview.

I write – back to the subject of breathing. I’m now writing and drawing and doing research on this very subject so that I can assist riders in becoming more attuned to their and their horses’ physical and mental selves. I will soon start writing about this, figuring out in the process what I do and don’t know, and then filling in the blanks.

I put this off in the process of writing you this letter. It is time to take a deep breath and move on.

Next: 52. 2/23/16: Parents and Self-History

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