I write for a variety of reasons.
First of all, not to write would be tantamount to accepting damnation. When I was six years old, I discovered that I was mandated to write. I tried a variety of other vocations—languages, acting, and, especially being a spy—partly to see what alternatives were open to me, partly to worm my way out of the burden, and partly to make a living. But I couldn’t escape. I was stuck with the mandate. I write because I have to.
Second, I want people to know what happened. That desire especially drives my writing about Vietnam, but it was also a strong factor in my stories and novel about AIDS. It’s factor in my latest (unpublished) novel, Secretocracy, about illegal operations ordered by a presidential administration.
But third and equally important, writing allows me to vent. When I came down with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) as a result of my years in Vietnam, I couldn’t seek help in psychotherapy because I had top-secret-codeword-plus security clearances. In those days, therapy would have triggered the loss of my clearances; I would have been fired from my job. So, in an effort to come to terms with my grisly memories, I wrote down what happened. I learned later that one effective way of coping with PTSI is to record exactly what happened in writing. It forces the patient to face his memories head-on and he learns to live with them.
Venting worked for me. I have consciously faced the brutal recollections of what I observed and participated in and have learned to keep my emotions in check. I still can’t talk about some of my memories. But they creep into my writing.
Writing hasn’t worked for everybody. Some can’t bring themselves to write down their memories. Others can’t write well enough to get the stories on paper. I grieve for my brothers who can’t use the tools I’ve used. My heart is with them always.