A high school student once asked me the same thing. I said something along the lines of my having (and appreciating) the satisfaction of seeing and holding the final product. And truly, there is great reward in planting a seed, caring for it and watching it grow. But the question nagged at me, because I thought there was more to it than the literal sense.
I believe the real answer is that writing is like being an archaeologist of the human heart. It’s as if I’m dusting off the bones of our human condition: my task is to find the words to express pain and grief, shame and guilt, and joy, love, and euphoria—and then to veer all the way back again to heartache and sorrow. It’s an opportunity to wrestle with all the hard questions in life.
As human beings, we all have the same basic need: to be loved and accepted. I’m forever in awe of the book EAST OF EDEN because John Steinbeck so painfully describes how “The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears.” He goes on to say how rejection leads to anger, and with anger there comes some sort of crime . . . and then, the guilt. According to Steinbeck, the “chart of the soul” has many paths, depending on the human spirit.
I think that’s the essence of just about everything: the mystery of the heart and the soul, and the ordinary life one must live each day while making the extraordinary decisions that make his or her own path wholly unique on this earth.
Life is hard, love is hard. Writing about life and love is hard. But living life and knowing love is our reward—and writing about it is my joy.