What is there about writing that attracts us writers so? Most of us are compelled to write, but that doesn’t really answer the question, does it?
Part of it is the love of language – the music and rhythm of it. I used to ride the city bus in Atlanta, listening to the Hispanic women talk. Didn’t understand more than one word out of twenty, but it didn’t matter; it was the words spilling from mouths, rising and falling to high and low pitch.
And there’s a certain ambiguity to language. If you’re a punster, you know what I mean. Language is simply a series of signposts to give you the idea intended. As Wittgenstein wrote and taught, language is simply a method for negotiating meaning.
And perhaps a more convoluted answer to the original question here is: story. How could we tell stories without language? Signing, you say? Well, that’s its own language, isn’t it? Music itself? Sure, and dance and painting. All these tell stories. But then were were considering writers.
Some people are virtually compelled to live by story. I have a (slightly) older friend to whom I occasionally put questions. His response? “Well, let me tell you a story.” We are, I think, morphing into a more right-brained world, and rather than analytical, objective responses, we tend today to more and more prefer our answers in the form of story. There, we each take home what we need and leave the rest to be parsed in different ways by others.
Writers out there, wouldn’t you rather tell a story, rich with humanity, which shines though language’s ambiguities? Readers and listeners, wouldn’t you that be the case, too?