“to dig a well with a needle”

“Life and Letters: My Father’s Suitcase”, the Nobel Lecture, 2006 by Orhan Pamuk, is worth reading in it’s entirety. And you’ll have to if you’re curious about the title of this post, taken from the essay. You’ll find it a useful metaphor, writers.

And it is for you I offer the author’s explanation of this wonderful-terrible affliction–the urge to write. I hope Mr. Pamuk (from Turkey) will forgive me parsing his paragraph (from page 5) in a way more likely to hold your attention til the end; a regular paragraph, of course, is far too dense for the typical blogger dwell-time. 8>}]

“The question we writers are asked most often, the favorite question, is: Why do you write?”

I write because I have an innate need to write.
I write because I can’t do normal work as other people do.
I write because I want to read books like the ones I write.
I write because I am angry at everyone.
I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing.
I write because I can partake of real life only by changing it.
I write because I want others, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey.
I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink.
I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else.
I write because it is a habit, a passion.
I write because I am afraid of being forgotten.
I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings.
I write to be alone.
Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at everyone.
I write because I like to be read.
I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page I want to finish it.
I write because everyone expects me to write.
I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf.
I write because it is exciting to turn all life’s beauties and riches into words.
I write not to tell a story but to compose a story.
I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but–as in a dream–can’t quite get to.
I write because I have never managed to be happy.
I write to be happy.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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