Why I Write: By Timothy J. Hillegonds

The following is from the University of Nebraska Press Fall 2019 Newsletter, i.e.

Timothy J. Hillegonds has published work in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Brevity, and other publications. He lives in Chicago with his wife and serves as contributing editor for Slag Glass City, a digital journal of the urban essay arts. His new book, The Distance Between: A Memoir (Nebraska 2019), is in the American Lives Series

1 .
I am a drug addict and an alcoholic.
I am a criminal and a high school dropout.
I am a man who fathered a daughter when
he was nineteen and then moved a thousand
miles away from her.

2 .
In his 1946 essay, “Why I Write,” George Orwell asserts: “I write…because there is some
lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention…”

So I begin again.

3 .
I am a drug addict and an alcoholic who is
fourteen years sober.
I am a criminal and high school dropout with
a G.E.D. and a master’s degree.
I am a man who fathered a daughter when
he was nineteen and then moved a thousand
miles away from her.

4 .
I write because I am all of these things.
I write because I am none of these things.
I write because there is some lie that I want
to expose, some fact to which I want to draw
attention.

So I begin again.

5 .
I am a man.
I am a man who fathered a daughter when he
was nineteen.
I am a man who fathered a daughter when
he was nineteen and then moved a thousand
miles away from her, a man who then spent a
decade and a half making his way back to her,
a man who was confused about what it meant
to be a man, to be a father, to be accountable.

6 .
Orwell also proposes that there are four great
motives for writing, which he contends exist
in varying degrees in every writer. Notably, he
asserts that writers possess “the desire to see
things as they are.”

7 .
I write to see things as they are.
I write to see things as they were.
I write to see things as they could be.

I write to recover.

To reconcile.
To reckon.

I write to establish the intersection between
who I was and who I am, to locate the coordinates of the crossroads, to find the street
corner where these two personas meet.

8 .
I write to be present.
To disappear.
To have existed.

I write to live into the fullness of my humanity,
to grapple with the mistakes and the
triumphs, and the peace and the violence and
the love, and the delicate, sometimes-hidden
place where love used to be, the place my rage
sometimes still inhabits.

9 .
Finally, Orwell contends that writers write
out of a “desire to share an experience which
one feels is valuable and ought not to be
missed.”

10 .
And so I write because this experience, by
which I mean this life, feels valuable and like it
ought not to be missed.

And I write because this life happened, and
because it’s still happening, and because it
feels as if it needs to be unpacked, and unknotted, and unhurried.

And I write because this act of consideration,
this act of reflection, this tactile and deliberate act of writing,
brings to focus a life that for so long felt like it had none.

And so perhaps that, above all else, is why
I write: to bring focus. To bring clarity. To
concenter all the things that used to be with
all the things that are.

So I begin again.

10.5
I write because I am a drug addict and an alcoholic who is fourteen years sober.
I write because I am a criminal and high
school dropout with a G.E.D. and a master’s degree.
I write because I am a man who fathered a
daughter when he was nineteen and then
moved a thousand miles away from her, a man
who then spent a decade and a half making
his way back to her, a man who was confused
about what it meant to be a man, to be a father,
to be accountable, but also a man who’s never
stopped trying to lessen the distance between.

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