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The why of those we do not understand April 5, 2009

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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We write to say, You are not alone. We write the thing that can’t be said, that no one wants to remember, the thing that will be a bright moment for a stranger, the way another’s writing was a bright moment for us. Ah ha! We tell our part of the story; we recreate the view from our window. We pass what we have to those who are hungry for it because we, ourselves, have been hungry.

New Orleans writer Barb Johnson’s has won the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Gift of Freedom award, a cash prize to allow the winner to spend time working on writing. The essay from her application to the foundation speaks not just to the other writing life, the “real” one of MFA programs, selling stories and filing the rejections, landing the book deal.

The essay also speaks to those of us out here on this humming tightrope, performing this strange street circus gig we call blogging. I don’t think that’s a good name for what I do, for what some others among us do. Blogging is a format. Would we call Johnson’s work “booking”.?

She addresses why we do we do this, the bookers and the bloggers, speaks not just to the MFA students or the prize board or her future editors but to all of us in this nebulous town square, the clowns and the curmudgeon orators, the citizen journalists touting their latest broadside, and the Oddballs like myself who are doing, well, what exactly? Blogging. Against the day I can be booking for a major house, I guess.

We do it for the same reasons Johnson writes stories, driven by the same urge to take the every day experiences of her bus ride to work and transform that world into words, and by doing so transform herself and her world. She does it, we all do it, to understand. In the end, that is why I am still here, typing when I should be doing something productive, or perhaps sleeping. If it gives you some pleasure to read my own exercises, well, there’s always the booking side of the house, over the on the right: $13.95 plus shipping. But that’s not why I’m here, and probably not why you’re here either.

The typing at night. The steady dum-te-dum-te-dum of the words of others sifted through the screen of who we are. In the stillness, in the dreamy stillness, we spin ourselves out into the big night, free of all that weighs us down. Free from the world of difference and sameness. We make what we need out of words… The why of those we do not understand is what we must learn, and we write to learn it…

Without the crackle of the keyboard, the she who, the bus. Without the quiet, the stillness, the place of writing. Without these things the world is the color of dust and all of us are strangers and always will be. Without writing, the dots stay unconnected, the days, unrelated. And all the meaning is lost moment to moment to moment….

“The why of those we do not understand is what we must learn, and we write to learn it…” is brilliant. I need to print that out before I forget and find the tape or a tack, even though the quote alone glosses over the other voyage of discovery in a writing life, the one by which we transform this glowing monitor into a mirror and scry ourselves.

Read the essay. Highly recommended.


1. sophmom - April 11, 2009

Her essay is amazing. It made me cry and think of you, plural, my friends in New Orleans, all made through writing. “Everything depends on the stories we have heard, the ones we’ve told and how. When we slump at our desks in the stillness, tired and pounded flat by our days, it’s the writing that brings us back to life. We’re never alone there.” Thank you.


2. seo - January 31, 2012

Hi there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!


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