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Why I Write: Michael Bennington

Last week, my son and writing partner told you why he writes. It’s nice to know that all I had to do to encourage his continued effort was to have a stroke. Guess I’ll put the stroke card back in the deck for later use in case he gets lazy again. For now, it will suffice to say that I am living on borrowed time. That is an old family joke as no one has really lived past 60 in my family for years and I really harped on that for quite a spell as I was approaching 60. So now that I am a survivor, I just tell my kids that I’m living on borrowed time. What a dad has to do to get some attention.

Enough of that. You’re here to grab the wisdom of my 60+ years of writing. Salivating at every word for a morsel from the master. Well…forget about it!

No master here. Just a novice writer but a seasoned storyteller, a swapper of lies and tales that have grown over the years.

So just why do I write? For one reason: my memory is fading and I don’t want to forget any of these pearls of wisdom. Another is that I am basically full of it and if I don’t get this stuff out I will explode.

I believe that everyone has a story. Our lives just couldn’t exist without one. Everyone has unique experiences that can be shared with others. Some of these stories are interesting and timeless, but most of them will never be heard because no one bothered to write them down. Hence, we not only miss out on some great tales but also lessons learned from the school of hard knocks that will forever dissipate due to history not being recorded and therefore repeated.

My grandmother told me the account of her driving experience with my dad braving the tutoring. She said she promptly drove into the ditch and that was her first and last time behind the wheel. This was a colorful story that had been told and retold for years in my family. The imagery became much more vivid just last year as I found an old black and white photo showing the car completely on it’s side in the ditch. How my grandmother got out was beyond me. This is just an example of what can be lost if we don’t record these events in some fashion. In this case, it was a photograph. In others it’s the written word that records the events.

So what am I doing except filling in some white space? Am I trying to get rich, become famous or have an amourous fan club. No, my real goal is just to share a tear, a belly laugh or a sense of hope when none exists. Hopefully my characters find their way into your heart and become a part of your family.

Spencer’s Two Cents: This is a pretty interesting take on writing as a technology of remembering. I’m currently in a graduate class themed around this discussion exactly–what is memory, what’s collective or public memory/forgetting, how do information technologies change and impact these ideas of memory, etc. Historically speaking, Plato was of the school of thought that no one should write things down because it would make our minds weak and forgetful. According to the theories of neuroplasticity that the medical/psychological world has adopted, this is actually kind of true. In this day and age, we don’t have to remember (because the internet remembers everything for us) and our brains our actually changing because of it. But I like this answer and the connection to the photograph because Dad’s talking about taking an amorphous idea (memory) and transcribing it into an artifact (story). I see this as less of a preservation of memory and more of an act of knowledge creation. Without writing private memories or thoughts down in some form, how could we come to share ourselves with the world? In other words, if we all have narratives like Dad said, it seems to be a very social activity to embark on transcribing ourselves onto a piece of paper.

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