NYTimes' #whyIwrite and Dietrich writer's group discussion

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011

Spurred by the National Day of Writing and NY Times' #whyIwrite topic on Twitter, I lead a discussion during my writing group last night on the topic of why we writers write. Here's the comment I left for the Times about that discussion which has been "retweeted" by @NYTimesLearning:

Every Thursday night in Tunkhannock, PA at the Dietrich Theater, a group of local writers ranging in age from 18 to late 60’s come together in an effort to grow, learn, and sharpen their skills as writers. Some of us have been writing our whole lives. Others have only just began. The incredible diversity not only in writing styles but in individual backgrounds and personality has created a dynamic environment.
There is a set schedule of who is to read at each meeting and last night was supposed to be my turn, but I had nothing to bring to the table. The novel I’d been working on had hit a wall and every short story rolling around my desk was unfinished. After informing the moderator of the group about my predicament, she suggested I lead a discussion. Fine by me, but what about?
That’s when I noticed the #whyIwrite topic on Twitter. I’ve always been interested in why those of us who write choose to do so. What drives us to pour it all out? Surely we all have our own beginnings, but it seems that every true writer, at their core, has an undeniable force within that propels them to write.
With this in mind, I lead a conversation on why all of us in the group write. I started the group by quoting Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, one of my favorite and most beloved books on the subject of writing: “No one can advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
While Rilke’s position may be a bit extreme, I believe he exposes the core of why writers write. It is a need. It’s not a choice, but something we must do because our mind and heart command us to do so. Lord Byron said, “If I do not write to empty my mind, I go mad.” I think most of us might do just that if we could not write.
The responses were as varied as the writers themselves. Most of us had always been story tellers. We lived in our minds among our imaginations. We constructed whole worlds during our childhood that continued on throughout our lives. And we all felt the need to tell our stories. To record them lest they be lost. One of the members commented, “I’ve had the urge to write since before I could actually write. I’d tell my sister what to write…and I’ve always had the urge to make a mark on the world even if it’s on a scrap piece of paper.”
After the discussion, we all felt a bit more connected. More open and personal. Not that we were not a closely knit group before hand, but now we had seen each others hearts beating with the passion of the written word.
Thanks for such a wonderful idea. I’ve enjoyed reading all of the #whyIwrite responses and hope that this discussion is explored even further. I also think it is essential for young children who feel the urge to write hear these responses. To discuss writing and reading. Too many today are left to stray away from such an amazing and beautiful world.
Dale Wilsey Jr.

Check out the Times' blog entry over at learning.blogs.nytimes.com.

If you're on Twitter, tweet why you write with #whyIwrite. Also, I'd love to hear why any of you write here on my blog. What drives you to write? How did you begin? How does it effect your life?

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