The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Dinah Lenney on Taking Risks


This week’s Bookmark features an essay from the Bennington Writing Seminar’s faculty blog “From the Vortex” by author Dinah Lenney tackling the age old question, “Why do we write?” In her thoughtful essay titled "Singing Lessons," the creative nonfiction author writes about the sometimes safe choices we make when writing, only sticking to what we know, never taking a risk. 

“Not so long ago, in a classroom in L.A., I asked a group of students, 'Off the top of your heads, why do you write?' 'It’s a compulsion,' said one. 'It’s my job,' said another. Several expressed the desire 'to reach a reader.' Two insisted they use language to make sense of their lives. But it was the guy sitting just across the table who got to me: 'Why do I write?' he said. 'Because I can’t sing.'

Which made me laugh and remember and consider: who thinks she can? Who’s that sure of herself? Be suspicious of her, that’s what I’m saying. Be suspicious of any artist—singer, painter, writer—who doesn’t doubt herself; who isn’t willing to risk what she knows and engage with what she doesn’t every time.”

Read the rest of the essay here.

For more on Lenney, click here.