write

Why I Am a Writer

In Essay by Maya Roe

Why I Write

At this point, all my creativity has melted out of my ears. I have a new pen and a beautiful leather-bound journal and a desk under a window and a sweaty cup of water, but I can’t write. Saying I can’t write is similar to the dilemma of the woman who says she has nothing to wear—obviously I can write something, but the clear prose which collects in my mind becomes overdramatic and rambling as it hits the page. On this beautiful page cluttered by uninspired writing, I see a carefully cultivated lie. I see myself writing in cafés, staring at the ocean, and stoically reading poetry I hardly understand. Wearing an artist’s persona like a little boy wearing his father’s suit jacket.
The new pen taps on the perfectly lit desk. I listen to the omnipresent summer song of lawn mowers endlessly cutting the fecund Rhode Island grass. My lack of inspiration on this perfect day convinces me, finally, that I am no sort of writer.
Disburdened of my former identity, I become aware that I am wasting my time inside on a lovely summer day. Without the illusion of artistic talent, I have no reason to squander days before I turn twenty on contemplative thought. I need to celebrate my youth somehow! Get drunk on my parent’s wine, have messy uninformed sex in the back of a jeep, or, jump off the bridge into the reservoir! I sit for a minute more. None of the necessary resources for these adventures present themselves.
The screen door slams and bounces in the frame. Across the lawn. Down the hill like a rolling boulder. Big steps. Steady, indiscriminate. Path of least resistance. Over poison ivy and rock walls, through ferns. I might get ticks. I keep walking. Apparently, climate change is exacerbating the spread of Lyme Disease. I stomp through high ferns without looking down.
I find a stream at the bottom of the hill, and am determined to see it in all of its banality, unshackled from problematic symbolism. I see moss and mushrooms. Normal stream stuff. Keep walking. There are no metaphors here. I intentionally walk without purpose. Through, across, beside the stream. There is murky sand rubbing my toe under the sandal strap. The stream is not a symbol. I am not a white pine or a grain of sand or a stream through a forest defoliated by gypsy moths. I am not even a writer. I am an elephant. Big feet, crashing through underbrush. No, I am not an elephant. An elephant would be a simile. I am a young angry woman stomping through a summer forest in northern Rhode Island, angry because she can’t write. I am angrily stumbling into the bramble between the forest and the swamp. The forest closes tight around the stream. I am crouching under branches and tearing my shins on the dead willow undergrowth. I don’t care. This is no metaphor for the strife of an artist. It’s a woven mess of branches I push my body through, and I am an angry young woman, sure she will never produce writing that the world could love as much as she does.
I am an angry young woman, but at least now I am out of the willows and looking across the still lake. There are trees and rocks and clouds reflected in the water, but I need to remember that none of it means anything. I need to walk along the edge of the lake because there is no way in hell I am going back through those willows. The edge of the lake is swamp. I tromp through it, west I think. First grass, then mud and grass, then lilies and mud and the ground is suddenly sinking and this is not a symbol, and the ground is not a laughing jiggling belly, it’s just sphagnum moss with an undetermined amount of water underneath. and I should probably go back to shore before my angst-ridden escapade leaves me drowning under a moss ceiling, to be mummified in the anoxic environment, and found by developers when this lake is drained to accommodate a strip mall, still clutching my journal and a Frito’s bag I pulled from the bushes earlier. I lunge for solid ground, grabbing a bush for support. My knuckle is stung by a bee. I swear.
I return to avoiding literary devices. No, this bee was not placed here to teach me the importance of persistence in the creative process, it was simply pissed because it was grabbed unexpectedly. I stop, looking to discern my way out of the swamp. The shore is a tight tangle. I keep walking, more careful, through the sinking moss and sedge hummocks. I am a mess. There are sticks in my hair and mud on my calves, and certainly poison ivy and ticks waiting to make their presence known at a later time.
A heron clatters out of the cattails ahead. It is close enough to hear the great wings churning the air. I know it was not sent. It is no symbol, but I like it just the same, and I slowly make my way towards the place it rose from. To my right, I see an opening in the tangle, and instinctively follow the deer trail back to the willows. I bend so that my breasts brush my knees. Between my muddy feet, I see two blueberries. Small and unexpected. I search among the understory for the bush that produced the berry, but find none. I search for a moment more, before I look up, and see the dark bunches of berries hanging just out of my reach silhouetted against the summer sky.
I scramble reckless up nearby bushes. They sag under my weight. I reach grab, and push the sour, tight berries into my mouth. The bushes sway like the bog, but I step farther and farther out to reach the berries. When I eventually come smashing back to the ground after trusting a dried dead branch, I look for steadier footing, and climb a nearby snag, which forks, creating a seat near the crown of the blueberry tree. I pull the berries down and roll them in my hand. Small as seed pearls, midnight purple on the side that knew the sun, and deep rose on the side that knew the forest. I look out over the lake, appreciating the spreading ripples of a fish and the shadows of the trees on the far shore.
Sitting among the blueberries, I know that these were not placed here for me, that the heron chose the bog for fish, not for the way the water contrasted her smoke feathers, and that the bee did nothing more than he knew. I am sure that this world has no need for my stories and it is I who needs the world’s random, beautiful events to be chronicled. I have learned, however, that the best way for me to love an inexplicable world full of bees and sedges and white pines and mushrooms, and soggy moss, and blueberry trees is to be a writer.

About the Author

Maya Roe

Website

Maya Roe was raised in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and currently lives on Mount Desert Island. She enjoys swimming in the ocean at night, baking pie from scratch, and finding good books of poetry at thrift stores. Her work has been published in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a few anthologies.