Why I Do What I Do

Early in _The Writing Life_ Annie Dillard tells the story of an aspiring writer coming up to her after a reading and asking if she, too, could become a writer. That she really wanted to. In the moment, Dillard tells us she remembered a similar question once being posed to a painter and that his response was “Do you like the smell of paint?” Her response is “do you like to make sentences?”

The nature of the response is to point out that we too often focus on the role or persona and not on the process or product. Painters paint. Writers write. It’s a stupidly simple assertion, but it reminds us that behind any fame or glamor attached to someone who has done something is the doing itself.

There’s a lot more to be said on this subject. I only come to it this morning because I am working on a photo-essay, an argument by illustration is what I am calling it, for a start-up journal. It’s on the boats, of course — which is nice after taking a hiatus to work on the Project Bamboo scholarly narratives. And what brought me to say out loud “I love what I do” was writing on some photographs I had printed out with a permanent marker, numbering them and also marking topics within the image that I wanted to pursue. I love the feel of it.

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