Guest Post: David Levithan on Why He Writes

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much for awhile. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

David Levithan’s a writer, an editor, and class president of the NYC YA scene. He got the YA drinks night going and the NYC YA Lit Festival. He does not sleep and must be at least part cyborg. (Or there’s more than one of him, which his interview of himself below strongly implies.) This post came at just the right time for me because it’s all about loving writing. I confess that right now I am head over heels in love with writing so his interview with himself made me smile and go “awww” and nod in recognition (and be really glad that I was enjoying summer in Sydney, not enduring smelly winter in NYC).1

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David Levithan writes books by himself, writes books with other people, and edits books written by other people. His latest book is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written with John Green, which will be out in April in the US and in May in Australia and New Zealand. You might be able to find him on facebook.

The two Davids say:

Q: Why do you write?

A: I write because I am in love with life. Or I write because I want to be in love with life. I think it’s always one of the two.

Q: What do you mean?

A: It’s nearing the end of a long winter. I don’t mind snow, but I’m tired of boots. I don’t mind cold, but I’m tired of the way we can’t talk about anything else. I feel the desire to retreat becoming more pronounced. But at the same time, I recognize that when I do retreat, when I do hole up in my home, I do so because I want to reconnect with the most elemental parts of my life. Writing is like that, too. You escape life to discover life again. And I can’t help but love that. Or be in love with that.

Q: You often write love stories. Conventional love stories. Two people falling in love. Why?

A: I think I write about that – a lot – because loving another person is a manifestation of loving life, or being in love with life.

Q: You keep talking about being in love with life . . .

A: It’s like synesthesia, without the wires crossed. Instead of seeing red when you hear a note of music, when you see red you really see the red, and when you hear a note of music, you really hear the note of music. I guess I truly believe the world is made of marvels. Horrible things, too. Awful things. But mostly marvels. And I rely on writing to help me capture them in some way. For myself and for others. Other people find their marvels in science, or math, or other arts. I understand that. But for me, the words get me closest to the true experience of life.

Q: You sound too happy.

A: I used to worry that you had to be in pain to be a great writer. I’ve gotten over that.

Q: But doesn’t a writer need to have an edge of despair?

A: That’s the popular conception. I’m getting over that too. It can certainly be there. But I don’t think it’s required.

Q: Why do you write?

A: I enjoy these words. I enjoy the sensation of sitting at this laptop and seeing which words float to the top from the depth where all possible words are kept. I think it’s strange that we rarely talk about this enjoyment, perhaps because we’re in awe of it, or perhaps because we feel to be a good warrior, you need to go through the wars and have the scars to prove it.

Q: You never write out of anger? Hate? Fury?

A: Of course I do. But it’s only because I believe in the right things that I can write about the wrong.

Q: Do you worry that words are losing their meaning?

A: In what way?

Q: Does technology devalue words, detach them from the marvels?

A: No. Well crafted phrases still show a love for life.

Q: For example?

A: I had cereal for dinner. It’s hard to imagine a more banal sentence. But if you can attach the sentence to its sensations, it will make you more in love with life. Tonight, I had cereal for dinner. It made me feel like an adult, but on childish terms. I walked around my apartment with the bowl in my hand, felt the cereal crunch in my teeth, drank the leftover milk when the cereal was gone. As I did, a trickle ran down my chin. I felt I was seven years old and thirty-seven years old at the same time. All of which is contained in the sentence, I had cereal for dinner.

Q: Why do you write?

A: Because I love that life is a puzzle and we only have a small chance to figure it out. Because it’s memory. Because I can make things exist that don’t exist, and I can also choose to show things as they exist.

Q: What do you want people to know?

A: That it’s okay to openly love writing, even when it’s hard. That it’s okay to be in love with life, even when it’s hard. That there is no reason to anything, and thus you find your own reasons. I never get a chance to talk about how much I love what I do. I really love what I do.

  1. What? I get to gloat! []

11 comments

  1. Sandy Shin on #

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. :]

  2. Daisy Whitney on #

    Nobody says it better than David. I am in love with his writing!

  3. Heidi R. Kling on #

    I adore this post.
    Thanks, David. :)

  4. Kiersten White on #

    I love words, and I love what you did with them here.

  5. Rebecca on #

    David’s answers were great, but the interviewer just didn’t know how to ask good questions! :p

  6. Barbara Lee on #

    Thank you for your words and guest blogging. I enjoy the sincerity behind these words and appreciate how you express yourself. I look forward to more.

  7. Brenda Ferber on #

    Okay, you just took all my thoughts out of my head and expressed them better than I ever could have. I usually keep this love of life to myself because I fear people will think I’m nuts or hate me for being happy. But that’s just silly. Thank you!

  8. Kaethe on #

    David, I think your love of life shows clearly in the work you write as well as the work you edit. I’ve dearly enjoyed every minute spent reading your books, and when your name shows up in acknowledgments I do a little happy dance. Keep sharing the love!

  9. Ruth Koeppel on #

    I love the line, “It’s okay to be in love with life, even when it’s hard.” I find that very inspiring. Great idea, the interview with the self. I really enjoyed it.

  10. Kate Forsyth on #

    I love what I do too :)

  11. Rai X on #

    I think I am in love with this post.
    It sums everything up wonderfully.

Comments are closed.