On cold, dark winter nights, eight in the evening feels so much later.
Tonight is such a night. The streets are desolate. Neighbors cocoon in their homes. The sun rests with such haste that the early evening feels like midnight or later.
Restlessness grips me. The night feels old and stale and I feel ready for a new day to be born but still hours of darkness remain. I take a drive in my car on nights like this.
In my car I drive to nowhere, circling Main Street of one town to Main Street of the next. I pull my driver’s side window down and the cold breeze pushes in against the car’s heat, which puffs and pushes back. Scents of burning wood on the winter air. Song after song from scratched, chipped, stuttering CDs is sung across the car’s speakers.
I love music, I like to sing. I often think about taking lessons. It’s one of those things that you never really tell anyone.
As when I write, listening to the rhythm of song can truly burn a fire in me. It makes me feel more alive. And so in the private venue of my car, I not only listen, but sing.
Between the pauses of breath and frequent breaks that an untrained, straining voice demands, it starts to dawn upon me why I wish to write books.
It’s because I want you to sing along with me. I wish for you and I to sing a song together.
I will suggest my songs to sing–that’s what a book is. But I don’t even care if we sing my songs or someone else’s. I don’t want you to join along with me because they’re my songs. I’ll just use my books as my excuse to invite you to sing with me. I’ll write them, just so I know there will always be something to be sung.
Hafiz once said, “I wish I could speak like music.”
I love that idea.
I too wish I could speak like music: that every sentence and page would be its own song; that a book I would write would be less a collection of words and more a masterful symphony of emotion. I wish for each page to read like poetry. For one word to flow into the next like two beating hearts pressed into each other.
I wish for words to capture the flow of a river; for you to not need to paddle or swim but float and be carried away to wherever you desire.
It has never before dawned on me, this writerly want.
If you were to ask me but a few minutes prior, I might have said that I wish to write books because they are such unique things: the exemplification of the art form of writing, for all its beauty and difficulty.
I romanticize the idea of change and service and leadership, and so books become that: strenuous treatments of complex subjects and ideas that require extensive exploration. I might have said just moments prior to now that a book and how it is written must prove themselves to be worthy of the eyes and minds of a reader–a book stands upon its own or it doesn’t. That seems just. That seems equal and fair.
I might have said that a book is a window into the soul; that its pages grant you, the reader, a privileged chance to melt into the soul of another, for all his viewpoints and stories and struggles, and for all her ideas and hopes and dreams.
Perhaps those are all still true.
But even those reasons now seem so… small.
I wish to write books because I wish to go to bed with you–for my pages to lay beneath your pillow as you slip into slumber, because if I cannot myself be there with you, then this slice of me can, and simply knowing that makes me feel all the more in love with you. I wish to fall in love with you. I wish for us, when we someday meet and you tell me that you’ve read my words, to realize that we are in fact in love. I wish to meet a stranger and for that stranger to become a lover, a friend, a soul-mate–in an instant. Writing a good book that’s worthy of being read grants me that.
What is love but a soul seeing its equal in another? There need not be anything romantic or sexual to the idea. Love is equality, recognized. And a book is a vessel by which we can sing the same song together.
I wish to write books so that you can meet me, and thus, so I can meet you. Unabashed. With no motives. With no objectives or goals but because we are the same, you and I–that we can see our two souls are actually one, just as my soul is one with any other, and as your soul is one with another just the same.
I wish to meet someone I’ve never met and know that we’ve actually danced before; that we’ve made love; that we’ve shared a few too many beers in the neighborhood pub before we’ve ever had a sip; that we’ve held hands and walked somewhere new and strange and enjoyed the journey anyway; that we’ve stood in arms together on the battlefield against a common foe, bled together, and became brothers that way.
I’m back in my car flipping through songs, and hear myself singing along with Layne Staley, Anthony Kiedis, Brent Smith, Billy Corgan.
Replace the names.
It’s not that I’m singing with rock stars but that I’m singing along with anyone–that’s what I feel.
That’s what I love; why I sing at all. It’s hearing their words born and reborn again, countlessly, endlessly, that I feel burn a fire in my belly. It’s the emotion we share. The humanity we bond over. The realness of our tears and strife and fight.
It’s in these moments when I am alone in my car humming down vacant streets on an empty, lonely winter’s night with hundreds and thousands of memories swirling–good and bad, loving and unkind–that I no longer feel alone at all. I feel connected.
It’s not just a feeling, or an inclination, or a hallucination, or a mirage.
It’s not a song being sung to make me play pretend with myself that someone else is in the car with me, singing too.
What I experience in these simple, forgettable moments is the gift to breathe life back into the words that have once been said.
That’s why I wish to write books.
To provide to her, the weary traveler; to give to him, the journeying soul; to offer a song to the vacant dreamer; to harmonize a ballad with the hardened fighter.
Ink-filled paged between two covers forge and reforge bonds of earnest love between souls who’ve never met and who may never meet. Erase me from the equation. Remove my name from the cover and strike me from its pages. Even without a name or face or story or ego, that reader still knows that she is not alone and has never been alone–even when on a cold winter’s night, she feels that way.
I wish to write books because people are everything. The only thing. And feeling alone from them feels like death.
I can only imagine–being as captive as I am to this sole perspective–that, to you, feeling alone from me could feel the same.
I wish to write books so that I can be carried with you on a walk through the park, and sit on your nightstand, and smile from your bookshelf.
I wish to write books so my name, however unimportant, can be a whisper of a reminder to believe in yourself because you are here and that is enough; for my book’s cover to evoke an emotional bond of strength and perseverance, justice and truth. I wish for you to look upon my words and be more of yourself — as you as you can be.
I wish to write books so you know that I care. That I always have cared for you. That someone always will. That in my every single struggle and tear, in my every word and gasping breath, on my loneliest and emptiest of nights that it is you, friend, who I am thinking about.
It is you who I dream of.
It is you who I write to through weary, creaking fingers; you who I journey toward and labor to find. I wish to write books so that you have no doubt that my love is real, and thus that your love is real too, and thus that love is real entirely.
In the words of songs once sung I feel that, and so I know it is true. In the words of ancient poets and the most devoted seekers, I see myself staring back–I feel my human roots in them, no different, perfectly equal.
I wish I could speak like music. But no one hears me singing from my car.
So I wish to write books instead.
P.S. – If you feel the desire to “speak like music” and write books, join me in my writers’ group, The Literati Writers. Give me three months and I’ll make a better, stronger, more confident writer of you. Learn more over at LiteratiWriters.com.