Why I Write

Graeme portraitMy 14-year-old asked me earlier this summer: “Mom, why are you so obsessed with documenting everything?” I am not, I protested, obsessed …  with … anything.

“Look at all the pictures you take. And, there’s your blog.”

I had to admit he had a point. Before I wrote the blog, I wrote monthly letters to my mother-in-law, great aunt, aunt, and sister-in-law. I take thousands of pictures a year — even more now that I have a digital camera. But, why am I so obsessed with documenting everything?

I read a blog post the other day by a friend from journalism school. She was writing about a painful experience; she recently spoke at a memorial service for her 37-year-old brother. “This is what I think I said,” is how she began the post. “I didn’t write anything down. All you writers out there know why – right – because if you write it down, it means it happened. I’m still waiting to wake up.”

douglas lawnmower

barely big enough

I have that feeling a lot. If I don’t write it down or take a photograph, it didn’t happen. I spent time recently with friends who are in their 70s. They knew me from when I was born until I entered second grade. One of them asked me if I remembered my sister’s baptism in the friend’s backyard with a garden hose. “Yes,” I said immediately. But then I had to backtrack; after all, I was only three. What I may have been remembering is the photographs I have seen of the event.

The visual is so important for me. One of the reasons I like to blog is that I find it a very visual medium. I try to include a photograph with every post. I am drawn to blogs, magazines, books, etc. that include photographs, paintings, drawings, quilts, etc. I am drawn to color.

Writing isn’t color — though. So, why the writing? I think it is related to the love I have for color. In my writing, I am creating scenes. I like to record moments.

I also could answer the question by saying I come from a long line of documenters. I sat with my mother recently to teach her some Lightroom tricks. She had taken 227 photographs during an overnight stay with someone she and my dad knew in high school, but hadn’t seen for about 50 years. 227. Because of this, I have a wonderfully documented childhood.

The great-aunt I wrote to for years shared a letter with me that she wrote to her husband when he was away at war. Somewhere, we have a letter written by the father of the first of our Irish relatives to settle in America (we have this letter because one of my mother’s sisters did some digging and saving). My older sister has notebooks of clippings about her beloved Cincinnati Reds (the 70s team).

I guess I write because I don’t know any other way to live.

Update: A friend posted this photo today and I had to share it. Look at my mom taking a picture at the friend’s wedding of me, my sisters and our friend’s stepson. How about Mom’s crocheted dress (made by Dad)?

patty taking a photo at trish's wedding

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