Why I Write Vol. 12: Art Isn't Absolute Because Life Isn't Absolute

In this series, "Why I Write," members of the Grub community share what compels them to put words onto paper day after day. In this edition, Memoir Incubator graduate Priscilla Bourgoine describes how writing is her way of making a difference.


Sixteen summers ago, I visited the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. I was thankful for the distraction the art museum offered. I roamed the grand halls of the museum, searching for Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting, The Scream. Viewing his Expressionist work gave me respite from the distress of my broken marriage. I read how Munch’s diary indicated he intended to capture a sunset when he had stopped beside a fjord after saying goodbye to friends; the sky burst blood-red. What he saw was nature’s scream. But when I studied his rendering of this moment, I saw the reflection of my inner state. His painting gave to me both affirmation and comfort. No doubt, other viewers would have their own interpretations based on their own circumstances and dispositions.

Today, I am happily remarried. Now, this painting elicits my outrage over the barrage of senseless violence we enact on one another and on our environment around the world. The interpretation of art changes as we change. Art isn’t absolute because life isn’t absolute. Trying to find meaning and connection is a life well lived. I don’t know exactly when I realized my medium for creating was writing. That I needed to write to live. Or do I live to write? Emerson believed that the purpose of life was to make a difference in whatever means one has.

For long stretches when I was young and sick in bed with asthma, long before inhalers existed, I wrote silly poems, plays, and stories to distract myself and entertain my brother. Certainly, I doubt anything I ever write will achieve the grand heights of international acclaim Munch’s painting reached. But I do aspire to offer a connection, one reader at a time, whether my writing evokes a smile, a sigh, or maybe even a scream. 


Priscilla Bourgoine practices as a psychotherapist in a group practice outside of Boston and offers remote therapy through a Manhattan-based company. She teaches in the MSW program of SimmonsOnline. She earned a MSW from the University of Connecticut and earned an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. She is an assistant editor at R.KV.R.Y. Literary Magazine and Change Seven Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in Brain, Child, and elsewhere. She was awarded a scholarship to GrubStreet’s Memoir Incubator Program 2015-2016. In February 2016 she was a writing fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and in 2017 she will be a fellow at the Turkey Land Cove Foundation. She lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband.

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