An upgrade to a larger apartment meant an upgrade to a futon from the foam, fold-out couch and bed that I had bought off a neighbor’s lawn for my first studio apartment.
But when my parents and I were putting the futon together, they had to leave before we could attach the frame to the body, so I did it myself.
Everyone, including me to be honest, was shocked that I was able to do it, because I am not exactly known for being mechanically handy, and building things is practically an impossibility.
Destroying things, however, is right up my alley. Once, when my wife and I were putting a new vanity in our bathroom, we had to take the old one out, and I think she and her father were both awed by the devastation I wrought with merely a hammer.
We’ve moved a bunch of times, and the futon is in my sports room now, but it has never been as easy as it was the first time.
Maybe it was lightning in a bottle.
I can appreciate art, but I can’t actually do it.
Not only do I not have the talent for it — in my art classes, I advanced beyond basic stick figure, but not that far — I don’t have that kind of brain. I can’t see or imagine something and think of it as a painting or a sculpture.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons I hate modern art. Even though I’m probably oversimplifying it terribly, I look at it and think, “I could do that.” I want my art to be something I know I can’t do.
So on this National Day on Writing, what do my lack of skill at building things or inability to conjure up a painting have to do with #WhyIWrite?
Because while my brain isn’t capable of being inspired to create a painting or sculpture — and people who can conjure up great music are way beyond me — I can walk through Times Square at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning and feel inspired by what I see and hear around me.
And while I can’t build a futon (or much of anything else), I can take that inspiration and build the words and sentences to describe it.
Writing is what I build, how I express myself.
It’s my hobby, my way of keeping my brain occupied.
It’s as close to artwork as I can claim.
So, far from finding it corny, I completely get what W.D. Frank is saying.
People don’t realize that the tragedy of suicide is not a tragedy of descent. The ending is tragic, but the life is not: the life, however long it was, is a shining document of victory. Every day lived a marvelous, impossible transcendence of hope over despair. — Rachel McDaniel, “Doug Ault and the Triumph of Joy”
Great writing is also aspirational. When I read something great, not only do I want to read it over and over again, I want to be able to do something like that.
I’ll probably never get there — after all, the writers I like best are brilliant — but they give me something to shoot for.
And so I will keep writing. I may never reach the heights, but I can always keep trying to get there.