Two Pens Are Better Than One: Why I Write

For me, I get writing energy from other people, responding to what they have to say (or to questions they might pose). If they respond again in turn, I hope to be surprised by the angle they take in the counter “chess move.”

I write, therefore, to dialogue. When I read a book, I find myself (for example) writing notes in the margins–essentially arguing with the author. I then might flesh out my reflections more fully in a blog post, which a stranger from some other part of the world might respond to. I then respond to that. “They say, I say.” It becomes my next writing project for that day.

So the first product of my writing is not the end, only the beginning. “Words are birds,” Ram Das used to say (perhaps he still does), and in the Gospel of John it says, “The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it’s going” (3:8).

That’s the pleasure I get from writing; the constructing of sentences and ideas, seeing what others think in response, seeing what I think of that, etc. The genre might change–it could be a short story, a poem, an article, an opinion shared–but the word construction and interactions with other people are the same; that’s what pleases. It’s writing as surprise; as collective jazz.

So my writing for me is like a pick-up game in basketball. I might start shooting at the park all by my lonesome, but I hope others will join me. That’s when it gets interesting.

Claustrophobic garret writing or writing as performance (where people politely smile or applaud, but don’t actually comment directly, honestly, specifically), are not especially interesting to me. In writing, I’m hoping at minimum for dialogue with myself or an author–and best of all, dialogue with living others, for mutual growth. Two pens are better than one.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Two Pens Are Better Than One: Why I Write

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Insert joke about the pen club, and how you can become number 15!

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