Why write?

I set off yesterday morning in the rain. The word obfuscation sprang to mind – the usual view across the mountain range was under cloud and I hoped it wasn’t an omen.


Would I be able to track down what I was looking for? Or would time have obscured the memories? I’m researching my next Tuscan novel and down in the valley from us, in Pieve Santo Stefano, is the National Archive for diaries, where I was bound. I had requested to see three documents and spent the next three and a half hours poring over the words of two women and one man. They were all accounts of experiences during the Second World War, in occupied Italy. I have to say I felt like weeping whilst reading. But I smiled too at this glimpse of ordinary lives from the past.

There was a poem printed as a poster on the library wall. It’s hard to translate all the sentiment behind Bruno Tognolini’s lines (and I will write it out at the end of this blog in its original form for my friends who read Italian). He conjures a person called Giovanna and asks why she’s written her diary. The answer – “I wrote to wash clean, I wrote to clarify, to do and undo the past that’s yet to come and so that this never-ending world would remember me.”
As I drove home, thinking about the young man who had described his battle at Cassino, where “young men died five times… in this cemetery of men of eighteen to thirty years of age”, about the fourteen-year-old Italian girl who fell in love with her eighteen-year-old German soldier, whose tender kiss she never forgot, about the single mother who was forced into prostitution with soldiers to feed her child, I thought what a wonderful thing it was that these diaries had been bequeathed. Through their words, these people live on.
Then I started to think about the reasons why we like to read and why we write. There are infinite reasons and for me, the two are connected. I think most of us need narrative in our lives. I read to broaden my life, to be swept away, to connect with different places and emotions and to have fun.
Writing isn’t always fun, but most of the time it is. Hopefully, if I enjoy my writing then one or two readers will enjoy it too. If I manage to connect, and to create something worthwhile out of everyday ordinary moments, take readers to places they’ve never been, drag them into my dreams, then it’s worth the times when Amazon remove our reviews and when algorithms, keywords, metadata, social platforms and all that other jazz get in the way of putting ideas down on paper.
Incidentally, when I drove home, the sun had come out and I could see the view.


Filastrocca del vento dei diari

I diari sono atlanti
Sono rose nei venti
Son brezze silenziose
Di cose, cose, cose
Bianche, lavate
In vento trasformate
Un vento fatto d’anime
Disciolto nello scrivere
Oramai senza traccia
Di colori,di essenze
Che carezza la faccia
Con le pure esistenze
Un vento trasparente
Di ore, di sere
Passate inutilmente
In pagine leggere
Scritte, trafitte
Spianate in righe dritte
Di calendar vivi
Giovanna, cosa scrivi?
Ho scritto per lavare
Ho scritto per schiarire
Per fare, disfare
Il passato a venire
Per dire le mattine
Per capire perché
Tu mondo senza fine
Ricordati di me
Voi scrittori nel vento
O cugini, o fratelli
O perduto da tanto
Adorate sorelle
Quei diari sono un dono
Un perdono di eroi
Perché io so chi sono
Perché io sono noi.”
Bruno Tognolini, 2014

If you have a moment, it would be great to have your theories on why you read or why you write.



About Angela Petch

Bit of a story dreamer, written two novels - a third in progress. I love my little family and in no particular order afterwards: Italian culture, food, wine, walking everywhere I can and especially in the Apennines, East Africa, tennis when I can, reading, reading and more reading. So much to discover still before I die.
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4 Responses to Why write?

  1. Beautiful and thoughtful post! The connection of stories is powerful and does help us see past the clouds

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jessiecahalin says:

    Angela, your stories are my perfect escape.

    Liked by 1 person

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