The following was tossed up on Random House Australia’s blog a few days back…
Why I write
Every writerly blog devotes paragraph after paragraph to it.
Writer-tweeters re-post articles by anyone who’s devoted web copy to it.
Book clubs and literary festival panels are obsessed by it.
What is ‘it’?
‘It’ is a question I’m now going to try to answer for you: why do I write?
It’s at this point I should probably lift a quote from Virginia Woolf or Mark Twain, or whoever else has scribbled something suitably chin-rubby or navel-gazey. I could drop an anecdote about an English teacher at school – that Robin Williams Dead Poets Society-style mentor who dragged me from near illiteracy to the wonders of T. S. Eliot. Or maybe I could reveal a deeply spiritual connection to my mysterious art, and how my desire to link words is only ever satiated when I’m on a 24-hour keyboard roll, hummy to the eyeballs with a natural amphetamine my naturopath extracts from Guatemalan cacti.
Sorry to disappoint, but for me to fall back on any of that stuff would be most disingenuous. A colourful writerly back-story just gets your picture in The Good Weekend, which is why I assume most scribblers are making it up when they summon up their inspiration clichés. And besides, despite my broader writing interests, I’m a sports non-fiction guy. So what am I going to do? Start banging on about how Norman Mailer’s boxing fetish tickled my fancy way back when? Give you a list of my favourite New York Times sportshounds?
Nup. Can’t, won’t and wouldn’t.
So then, to the question at hand. Why do I write? I’ll give you two reasons.The first is the one I’ve clung to for years: that writing is fun and is almost better than any other job I’ve ever had. But bear in mind, I’ve had some pretty ordinary jobs over the years. Lawyering was one of them. So too flipping burgers at Maccas. My stint as a kitchenhand at a nursing home was terrible. So all things considered, scribbling – even if it is for a relative pittance – is a pretty damn fine way to fill your day.
And the second reason? Well, this only revealed itself to me recently when I was umm-ing and aah-ing over whether to write what is now my second book: THE BAD BOYS OF FOOTY: MODERN FAILINGS OF FOOTBALL’S FINEST. ‘This book would be a revisitation of a host of football’s most inglorious moments,’ the good folk at Random House Australia said. It was going to involve trawling through a host of ugly on- and off-field episodes, and repackaging the kind of sporting stupidity the world has long had a gutful of. It would involve drugs and gambling and hopeless drunkenness and horrible sleaziness.
I baulked. Who, after all, needs to hear about all that again? So, as flattering as it is to be asked to write a book, I said NO in my mind countless times.
But then something happened. I started delving. And as I started dipping into piles of press clippings and biographies and archived film footage, a pattern began to emerge. The badness I was being asked to expose was, more often than not, human. I recognised myself in some of it. I saw glimpses of friends and their erroneous ways. I saw frailty. And soon enough I learned that badness itself was not the story. Instead, the story became about why people do the things they do, and why we, on the outside, are so vicious in our condemnation when our own backyards are a mess. In the end, it became something of a mirror held back at the world. A rather humanising quest, and a challenge I’m now grateful I accepted.
So why do I write? When I get asked that question now, I have a new and improved answer. I write because the search for words gives me the chance to surprise myself, empathise with strangers, try harder to understand people, and to learn from the mistakes we all make. In a very real way, I’d be a lesser person if I didn’t write.
So maybe that’s what draws this moth back to the light, time and time again.
Bad Boys of Footy: Modern Failings of Football’s Finest is Matt Webber’s latest book.
Go HERE to get a taste.