I was in my local convenience store, flush from “book pub day.” For those of you who aren’t writers, “book pub day” is the day your book comes out, although on this day, my book wasn’t technically “out” yet, but I had gotten my copies in the mail. Long story short, it’s the completion of one process, and the beginning of another process that makes the writing world go ’round. And on this great day, I ran into an old friend, and we chatted up writing – and I gave him a copy, as you tend to be a bit generous on book pub day. And as it is with any creative pursuit, we talk about ‘doing it for the love,’ as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense these days to be doing it for the money.
Now I agreed that it’s really a labor of love, not like it was an insult or anything. Hell, I think that most writers I know realize that a certain amount of love of the art helps us all sleep at night (some of us at our keyboards.) But later, now even, I have to think; how much of the effort, the concentration, the blocks and epiphanies, the anxieties and triumphs that, if any other person caught wind of them, would see them as something minor and insignificant, is done “for the love?” Because people collect stamps and create intricate lace doilies for the love. Is what we do something else?
To say that it’s not wouldn’t be accurate. When I reach in deep and my fingers are tapping words and phrases with the grace of a classical pianist, or the flow of a jazz ensemble, there’s love there. But there’s something deeper. It’s a fundamental understanding of why I write, and I suspect it’s similar for most writers. Why I write is about what purpose I hope my writing serves.
And now, onto stone discs. I found these discs called M-Discs. They’re DVDs; they burn the ones and zeroes into a synthetic mineral layer. So they burn data into rock. Short of snapping them in two, they can hold data for a thousand years. So I think about this, a thousand years. Think of all the things we don’t know about the year 1018. I mean, yeah, we know things. We know “the order of things” around the world, generally. But most people couldn’t read, and writing was a luxury for the clergy. Hell, “English,” as we know it, didn’t exist yet. And yet we are sitting in 2018, reading this, and we all get published every time we hit “post” or “send” and the world literacy rate is close to eighty-seven percent and how many people read when they don’t have to?
I don’t write for the love of it. I write because we owe that archaeologist a thousand years from here something that speaks above and beyond the endless stream of white noise and mind-candy in which we are awash right now. We have a talent, and a drive and patience and we have to use those things to chronicle, witness, lambaste and hyperbolize a time that is moving so fast that the archaeologists might not be looking from a thousand years away, but maybe a hundred, after the bombs drop and the radiation clears.
Maybe we love the craft, or maybe we love the solemn underlying obligation of the art. Maybe we’re just telling histories that haven’t happened yet.