Why We Write

by Chris Lyke

by Chris Lyke

It took two years to sit down with Matt and figure out why neither of us was writing anything. Afghanistan was still looming, gumming the spigot. I spent my twenties writing stories, playing music, and putting out records. And then the war came and most of my thirties were gobbled up in different places around the world. After getting home I couldn’t figure out how to start writing about any of it. There was the drinking, and the disconnection, the banality of the day job, and adult life. It’s enough to make a body listless, and then untethered. Last spring Matt and I started talking about all of this, about getting something going, getting things on paper, getting them said out loud. 

We looked around for veterans’ literary journals, but didn’t find much here in Chicago. We knew they had to be out there, but couldn’t find one that did what we’d talked about. A Pitchfork-meets-The Paris Review, with great columnists on the website and a quarterly journal that brings our readers the best in veteran art. After beginning the project we acquainted ourselves with other groups around the country: usually out of universities or on the web. We happened upon some great writers and photographers, some filmmakers and artists, all doing interesting things and impacting the community.

Hemingway said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know…and then go on from there.” There’s no restriction on subject matter at Line of Advance. It only needs to be honest. Men and women can write about their war, their husbands, their jobs; they can write about bagging groceries or going back to school; they can write about Vietnam or Afghanistan or raising a toddler. The work can be surreal or impressionist or plain. It can be a poem, or a story, or a photograph. It can be getting up on stage and telling a story in front of a room full of people, or writing an album. It just has to be honest.

Writers and poets exist in different stages of voice and growth; nobody’s a Tim O’Brien out of the box. We want to work with the talented: those that are ready now, and those that are just getting their feet wet. We are here to bring the stories out of the lit class, out of the chain-store job, off the corner, and out of the bar. We’re bringing them into public consciousness. We’re interested in what happened. Not just to one soldier in eastern Afghanistan, or one Marine in Ramadi, or Hue. We’re trying to see through the opaque, to spy the truth of what it has all become, muddied, and confusing.  If we’re able, as a journal, or creative media outlet, to capture the individual stories then perhaps we can put them together, creating a larger and more coherent, possibly more heartbreaking, but certainly more honest picture of what our time has done to us. A more honest picture of what we’ve done to ourselves. In essence, a mirror.

Matt and I are certain this will not be a political sounding board. If the art becomes political simply because its telling makes it so, then so be it. That’s great. But it’s the exploitation of the military’s experiences, and to a greater degree, America’s experiences over the last twelve years that keeps us shying from the political. The “whos” and “whats” of what happened over there, like the reality of what happens here, in front of us daily, are always up for debate. We all believe that what we feel has happened has happened, and what we’ve seen has been done. A collection of these things may prove something else entirely. This is what’s interesting to me. This is our attempt to promote the work that’s coming to do these very things. And it’s coming.

So, thanks for checking out the site and reading some of the columns. The people we’re working with are talented and driven, expanding our ideas of identity, of veterans, and of self-discovery. The columns will appear as often as we can summon them from the ether…and from the writers. The first Line of Advance journal will be up and for sale shortly, full of thought provoking, challenging work. The price is not steep; we’re charging enough, as Matt says, “to help us keep the lights on.” If you’re interested in submitting a piece for publication in the journal, please see the Submissions page. If you’ve got an interesting idea for a column, or just want to say hello and make contact, like us on Facebook and drop us a line.

Chris Lyke, Line of Advance

Line of Advance is the digital literary journal for the creative writing of military veterans.  Subscribe today to read the best in veteran writing.

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One thought on “Why We Write

  1. Chris, I am really impressed by this. It is important, and it is good to read. I start a “War Literature” unit in the spring. I may have to talk with you, or have my students write to you. That aside, good work and keep it up!

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