This article was originally written for The Greenville Guardian, an online newspaper for Greenville, NC. To read the full article and see a silly picture of me, follow the link below.
Why I Write: Spencer Bennington
When you’re a kid, one of the best ways to develop the social skills needed to succeed in life is team sports. So, naturally, being the loving mother that she was and still is, mine wanted to sign me up for tee-ball.
“No,” I said flatly. “I don’t know how to play.”
Mom was all sorts of outdone and swore up and down about how “they’ll teach you to play,” and “it’ll be fun” and a whole mess of other things to make me change my mind.
But I didn’t.
In fact, as a kid, I never played on a single team. As sort of a joke/political statement I joined the cheerleading squad in eighth grade, helped form a comedic YMCA basketball team in high school, and used slow-pitch softball as an excuse to drink way too much beer in college, but I’m not sure any of those really count.
The point is, as with tee-ball, I never wanted to do anything when I was younger unless I was sure I would succeed. If I wanted to learn new skill, I would practice over and over by myself until I was confident enough to demonstrate it to an audience. Nothing really came naturally to me—certainly not sports, but school subjects too, like Math and even Reading. Everything was practiced in private until I could perform in public.
But one day, that all changed. When I was an angsty 12-year-old, I started scribbling down poems in a spiral notebook. It didn’t take long for some of my classmates to take notice or, for some reason, for me to want to share my writing with the people around me. I didn’t care if the poems weren’t perfect because, for the first time, I had something that felt natural. Every word, every mixed metaphor, every terrible cliché somehow felt like an extension of my true self, something I could never be ashamed of.
The Greenville Guardian asked me why I write. The simple answer is that it feels ordinary. Wake up, brush my teeth, have a cup of coffee, write down a few lines that I think are funny or insightful or that I might can use in a book later on. Scrawling down fun ideas and silly little verses is just a habit, no different from dribbling a basketball at the bus stop or sniffing a wine before sipping–it’s part of what makes my soul shine in a different hue.
In a nutshell, writing is one of the few things I’m good at. That being said, finding a publication like the Guardian, which prides itself on paying contributors for content, was a life-changing experience. Until finding it this past year, I had completely resigned myself to life in a world where I had spent thousands of dollars and countless hours refining a set of skills which are entirely undervalued in the current job market. With two college degrees under my belt and a wealth of experience in the writing world, I was content taking a job as a pizza delivery boy because–well, what other job could I get with a master’s in English?
Why do I write? Because I enjoy it, because it’s part of my body, because my heart has things it needs to say.
But why in the world am I still writing?
Because of you.
The Greenville Guardian is the first place I’ve ever felt like I was being appreciated and rewarded as a writer. It’s the first publication that has made me feel connected with a larger audience and a larger community. It’s the first time where I’ve felt that total strangers extract the same amount of joy from my words as I receive in writing them.
Before now, the only person I’ve ever seen do that was my Dad.
Truthfully, he’s why I still write. He’s the one person that has annoyed the absolute piss out of me for years, trying to remind me that my talents are appreciated, are worthwhile, and are important.
Recently Dad gave us all a pretty big scare with some health issues. This is nothing new; he’s been playing chess with Death since I was eight years old. But a few weeks back, when he could barely walk, when he had to be rushed to some unfamiliar hospital, when he could have left this world forever, he texted me every morning. Not out of fear, certainly not to tell me anything about his condition (he hid that from me, actually), but to remind me to write.
In what could have been his last moments, that’s what he thought was most important.
Why do I write? Why am I still writing? Because there are people like Dad who see me try to put a little color and music in the world the only way I know how. Because there are publications like the Greenville Guardian with readers who remind me after every piece that I’m not just some lazy wannabe hiding from the “real world” under the guise of art.
I write because the greatest minds of my generation are not just stagnant films of rail-yard ash, but sunflowers brimming with life, hope, and love; mermaids singing each to each the songs of ourselves, the chorus of every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.*
I write because I believe that beauty still exists in this world, and that we all have the power to create wonder.
Thanks for reading and please check back next week for Mike Bennington’s answer to this question!
*lines from Ginsberg’s “Howl” and “Sunflower Sutra,” Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” respectively.