People ask me about my prolific nature and I have different answers. I’ve said that each novel teaches me how to write it. The term prolific novelist dredges up the notion of a formulaic writer; my prolific nature, however, comes from the opposite impulse. I get tired of myself. I get tired of Baggott being Baggott – which is my last name and increasingly how my own growing kids refer to me. I’ll do anything to get away from my own obsessions, to somehow convince myself that the mother in yet another novel isn’t my mother, etc… You know the drill. You have your own damn obsessions.
And I’ll do anything to convince myself that I’m a rank amateur again – that I’m in some new genre, one in which I’m an outsider who’s got no right to be there. In other words, a literary territory in which I’m free to … muck around.
And although I’ve been married to my husband for almost twenty-one years (I’ve come to consistently refer to myself as a child bride so the endurance of my marriage doesn’t date me so … hard), I like to have the novel under deadline and the novel on the side. I’m very Catholic about my wedding vows, but no novel ever asked me to be steadfast and true.
What I’m saying is that I find ways of taking myself – the author – out of authority. Each novel teaches me how to write it because I force myself to make it new – even if that means writing with some new kind of psychological blindfold, some new kind of genre-terrain, or some clandestine way of writing a novel with no one else’s eyes upon it.
There’s the old wisdom of, “Write what you know.” I write what I want to know. I write what I need – certainly the page doesn’t need me the way that I need it. I write to be known, to know others. I write to breathe this world out. I write because I’m scared and weary and because suffering surrounds us. Suffering is the instinct that drives my post-apocalyptic trilogy but also the force behind my domestic comedy.
You want to know the truth. When I talk to writers who put off writing, I marvel. I don’t know how they do it. I sometimes want to tell them the awful truth that they seem unaware of. Time is ticking. One day, they’ll die. How do they not feel that ultimate pressure, the finite limitations of life itself?
I don’t tell them they’re going to die because one must assume they know it, and because, of course, they might be living with that reality and deciding – quite deliberately – that they’re going to do other things with their precious time on earth than write.
But I write because I’m going to die. And I write because it’s the only way I know how to live.
The truth is one day you hear a story on the news where 234 school girls were abducted by a militant group in Nigeria, and there’s nothing you can do.
And I write because you don’t have too look far for tragedy. It’s always close to home.
I write for the same reasons I sometimes fall down on my knees and pray. I write because I’m helpless and it’s something – one thing – I can do.
I write because it’s a bridge from my humanity to yours.
Sometimes that’s all the writer can do. She says, I’m human. And the reader responds, So am I.
What more could you ask?