Posted by: Robin | March 22, 2008

Why This Writer Writes, Part 3

I have four shelves of books I call my ‘treasure books.’ A book makes it onto those shelves for at least one of three reasons. I read them over every few years, for both pleasure and the refuge of an old friend; I read them because they taught me something that changed how I thought or felt; I read them because they lift me out of myself by the pleasure, power, beauty or poignance of their writing. With some I feel a kindred spirit, and with others I am challenged to think beyond my limits. Certain authors recur: Jane Austen,  Anthony Trollope, William Falkner, Dorothy L. Sayers, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Charles Williams, Josephine Tey, J. K. Rowling, Margaret Frazer, Sharon Kay Penman, Ellis Peters, Barbara Kingsolver and Madeleine L’Engle. Some authors are represented only once, but often that is no indication of their standing: Emily Dickinson, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, William Wilberforce and Geoffrey Chaucer. The remainder tends to fall under three categories: medieval European history; Welsh language,  literature and history; and the history and literature centered on King Arthur.

Listing these may be excessive, but books connect us with the mind and heart of someone else–sometimes in opposition, sometimes with great affinity, and sometimes with epiphany. We sharpen our minds against theirs. I do not know if that was any part of their writers’ purpose in writing, but it has been too significant in my life for it not to be part of mine. Largely I write for myself. It is the truest way I can process my thoughts and express them. But I seek to get published to share the story I have passionately crafted and connect as other writers have connected with me.

Frankenstein is not on my treasure book shelves, but one of the things that drew me to research Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft as a thesis topic was the way the daughter used the written word to connect with a mother she could never know any other way. Mary W. Shelley is reacting to many things in her reading and life experience in her first novel, but most of all she is engaging in a conversation with her mother–reacting to her words, paraphrasing her prose and using the ideas dearest to her heart. Mary Shelley is grieving her mother, celebrating her and decrying what estranges all of us. What drew me was its cry for connection.

In our daily life we do not often connect around ideas or our deepest thoughts, feelings and affinities. Maybe that’s a good thing in a way, but it can leave us feeling alone, and even alien at times. When I come across a writer who mirrors my interests, thoughts and feelings and takes me a step further, it connects me anew. It brings perspective and allows me to return to those in my life knowing we share more than we don’t. I hope some day my writing can do for someone else what so many writers have done for me. And today as you read this, I am connecting with you. Hello.

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