In a recent post, I gathered some quotes from writers on their reasons for writing; in some ways substantially different from the motivations of visual artists, but at their core there's a similarity. I've been rereading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, a marvelous amalgam of memoir, fiction, scientific inquiry and philosophical musings. Levi lived through the unimaginable: the triumph of Fascism in Italy and internment at Auschwitz. In the chapter titled "Chromium" he tells of how falling in love with the woman who will become his wife reawakened him to life; he then goes on to describe what writing means to him. I found this passage very moving.
My very writing became a different adventure, no longer the dolorous itinerary of a convalescent, no longer a begging for compassion and friendly faces, but a lucid building, which now was no longer solitary: the work of a chemist who weighs and divides, measures and judges on the basis of assured proofs, and strives to answer questions. Alongside the liberating relief of the veteran who tells his story, I now felt in the writing a complex, intense and new pleasure, similar to that I felt as a student when penetrating the solemn order of differential calculus. It was exalting to search and find, or create, the right word, that is, commensurate, concise, and strong; to dredge up events from my memory and describe them with the greatest rigor and the least clutter. Paradoxically, my baggage of atrocious memories became a wealth, a seed; it seemed to me that, by writing, I was growing like a plant.