Why?

Why?

I am preparing applications to Masters of Fine Arts programs in creative writing and they all have the essay portion.  The essay that asks you essentially two questions:  Why should we admit you into our program and Why do you want to be a writer?  Those seem like two simple questions that you should be able to answer easily.  To me they aren’t simple questions because they seem to get to something deeper than just wanting to be a writer and wanting to get into their graduate school.

To me, these questions ask the essential first questions:  Why do I exist and what am I doing with that existence?

Since I began to get more serious with my writing I have been asking some form of these questions.  Usually it comes out as, Why do I want to write?

I don’t know if I’ve been able to come up with an answer.  I read short stories or books or I watch a television show or movie and think one of three things:  I wish I had written that (to me the highest compliment one writer can give another), how they did they write that, or I can do better than that.  The first is an envious challenge.  The second is wonder.  The third is the arrogance all writers secretly have.

This combination of things is why I write.  I listen to a song off Jason Isbell’s latest album Southeastern and I wish I had written anything half as beautiful or heart rending as “Traveling Alone” or “Elephant.”  I read Hemingway or Joyce and I marvel at the mastery of language that allows them to use the simplest of sentences to convey the most complex ideas and emotions.  I watch some of the most expensive movies made and wonder how drunk someone had to be to green light these hideous scripts.

Another answer as to why is this:  I have something to say that is different from what others before me have said.  I think I look at the world differently than most people I know and slightly differently then the writers I read.

One example is that most of the time when I read something or watch something that is purportedly about life in a small town or in the South I often have the feeling that I don’t recognize any of the characters.  That is surprising because I have lived in the South my whole life and small towns for a large part of it.  If I could write one thing that gives a depiction of life in either of those places that is a tenth more accurate than some of the things I’ve read or seen, I will have accomplished my primary goal as a writer.

That is the closest approximation as to why that I can come in this limited space.  Maybe I’ll get into an MFA program and then figure out a way to pay for it.  Maybe I won’t.  Either way, I have a book to finish and short stories to write.

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