W H Y   I   W R I T E
by Pam Houston

Pam Houston is the author of two collections of linked short stories, Cowboys are My Weakness (winner of the 1993 Western States Book Award) and Waltzing the Cat (winner of the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction.) A collection of autobiographical essays, A Little More About Me, was published in the fall of 1999.

I write for the sheer love of language, to watch the words crash into each other on the page, to watch the spark of electricity between them as they sit together, the rowdy unpredictable joy of language play.

I write to watch a metaphor shimmer and change with its context (like those holograms you pull out of cereal boxes, is what I tell my students), to throw ten images up in the air like oranges, get them spinning so fast they look like a hula hoop, and then catch them, each at just the right moment so they fall into my arms in an order that says "story."  I write to find each story's singular and surreptitious formula and to make the narrative turn circles and repeat and expand like spyrograph, this one a flower, that one a long hollow tube.

I write to hear the sounds of meter and cadence and rhyme, the strange music of a new characters syntax, the crescendos and decresendos that happen cacophonically on the level of sentence and paragraph and page.

I write because I know there's nothing better than a good story, well told, because I know that we rework, relive and re-create our lives through our stories, that in the end our lives are nothing more than the stories we've collected, the tales we remember about each other and ourselves.

I write because I know that without language everythying that happens to us happens in a frightening and silent vacuum, that without the words to talk about our lives they stall and choke on the edge of someting death-like, because one tiny part of me believes in the post-modern anthem...that nothing outside of language is real.

I write because I don't believe a story ever can be perfect. Because I don't believe that words will ever mean exactly what I want them to, that they will only approach meaning, approximate it, flutter around it's edges like a butterfly.  I am engaged in the love dance with language as deeply as I might be with a lover who will always ellude me, who will always be spinning and dippimg and whirling only inches from my grasp.

I write because I don't believe in truth, in non-fiction, or history, or biography, or anyone who says "this is how it really happened."  Truth is for judges and scientists, not writers, for if I believed in some straight-line actuality, if I believed there were really such things as facts, my work would cease to surprise me; and the dancing surely would stop.

Above all the other reasons, I write because the world is both heartbreakingly sad and heartbreakingly joyful, and the only way for me to bear the pain, the only way for me to bear the world's bright beauty is to catch it up like a giggling baby and to set it down in front of you, gently, honestly, in words.

To learn more about Pam Houston visit her website:  www.pamhouston.net

 


Pam Houston's workshop:
Writing Between Life and Fiction
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