Sharanya Deepak, the author of The Vampire Boy had to answer a profound question recently.
Some weeks ago, on a very crowded Tuesday night in Belgium, my friend pointed to my forehead and announced, ‘Published author.’ To which I did my usual cringing, self-dismissive routine. ‘Not big deal. Just got lucky. Another beer please.’ Which was then followed by a question that surprisingly no one had asked me before.
‘Why do you write?’ I was asked.
I froze, looked at the red lights above me that seemed to move in a way that said ‘Time to go home’ and formulated my most articulate response.
‘I don’t know. Why do you brush your teeth?’
You must know that for those who write, not writers, but ANYONE who EVER writes, this is a difficult question to answer. This is, possibly, not even a question that exists. That is not to say that writing is to me a natural instinct. I do not have a gene or particular nerve that produces words. It is not something I do mechanically, like breathing. It is not automatic, or natural, but it is necessary—like brushing your teeth.
I don’t have to do it, but if I don’t for a while, I start to feel uncomfortable. Like there is something coming between you and moving on with usual life. When you do usually write and you then you don’t for a while, your mouth starts to smell funny and your back starts to hurt. I must, shamefully admit that I do not so much believe in the brushing of teeth. But if I don’t write sometimes for days, then I feel like something is essentially wrong.
But there is also another reason why I write.
It is simply because I am amazed.
I am amazed by almost everything. By how sometimes you can meet someone for the first time and they can make you laugh. By laughter, just as it is. It is amazing. Have you ever stopped to think how amazing it is that something can trigger a laugh. How a single unexpected laugh can make you feel immortal in the seconds that it lasts. Sadness amazes me. How it can completely crush your soul and make you feel like you can’t breathe. And then how it sort of settles into you and makes you better in some way. Brotherhood amazes me. Sisterhood amazes me even more. Friendship, oh Friendship, has amazed me only ever in good ways. It has saved me from deep dark holes in which I did not see light. First hi-fives, first comfortable silences, first moments of forgiveness, are the most simple and profound things I have encountered. Love has not once, but several times, in all it’s forms, ceased to completely amaze me. How some faces get etched in your head and clobber at your brain in a way that is both incredible and miserable—amazes me. The sunrise amazes me. Sometimes when the sky is clear and you can see the stars, it amazes me how that never ceases to get old. Determination amazes me. When people who have nothing can get up in the face of it all. That, to me, is incredible. Just having your heart broken, how you feel like you are literally dying—becoming into small pieces, completely and totally amazes me. The way sometimes things or people are, completely empty, or superficial or sad, amazes me. In a bad way.
This is why I write. To put sentences to my awe. To tell of life and things and people who are magically overwhelming in their completeness. To try and comprehend and string together experiences that invariably sweep me off my feet.
I do not understand how anything works. I do not understand money, or directions, and sometimes I cannot unlock my front door. I forget appointments, lose everything I own, and can not comprehend things as simple as vending machines. It’s like I’m bad at basic life. But to me, just the way all of it comes together, in arrows and bits and pieces, sometimes slowly and sometimes really fast, like its transported itself to catch up with you—is just completely amazing.