I write because I take pride in having made something. Whether or not it’s objectively a quality product. Like my child who squeals with delight, “LOOK, MOM!” when he made a piece of crap at school, my heart cries out with a similar song. I made this! All by myself!
I write because I’ve got something to say. Much of my life I have felt silenced. Sometimes the voices told me to be quiet directly, sometimes it was implied but acutely understood on my part. And it turns out that there is only so much silence a soul can endure; there is only so much room in the human psyche for untold stories and unshared opinions. I write to clean the attic of my mind.
“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” – George Orwell
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Flannery O’Conner said that, and I couldn’t agree more. I joke with my husband that my spoken thoughts during our conversations ought to be considered first drafts. You want my coherent, sensical opinion on something? Gotta get it from me in writing. It’s the only way I’ll know what I think, let alone anyone else. This is especially true of the past, and by that I mean both yesterday and decades ago. What the heck happened? Better start writing and find out.
“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” – Chuck Palahniuk
I write because it’s my way of making things beautiful. Even pain. (Especially pain). Perhaps to some it seems unnecessary to create beauty, and probably others feel there is something disturbing about finding beauty within pain, but I’m left grasping for straws (gasping for air?) if the pursuit of beauty is nullified as a worthwhile endeavor. Why are we here if not to find beauty where it exists and create it where it doesn’t?
“I believe there is hope for us all, even amid the suffering – and maybe even inside the suffering. And that’s why I write fiction, probably. It’s my attempt to keep that fragile strand of radical hope, to build a fire in the darkness.”
– John Green
I write because I wonder if it’s an essential aspect of keeping myself healthy. Toni Morrison said that an artist without an art form is dangerous. Elizabeth Gilbert says if she’s not actively creating something, she’s probably actively destroying something. This needs more unpacking in my own life, but I’m highly suspicious that I also need creative outlets to maintain inner sanctum. What will happen to my soul if I don’t write? Will it become cluttered and then chaotic and then downright hazardous? I also worry about my poor imagination. It would be so cruel to never let it indulge any of it’s many ideas.
“Why am I compelled to write? . . . Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger . . . To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit . . . Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.” – Gloria E. Anzaldúa
I write because I see problems that need addressing. Because it’s the only way I know how to make sense of things. Because I care about truth and compassion and justice and love. Because I have to work out my humanity somehow. Writing seems as fitting a tool as any for doing something about those things.
“Because I can’t seem to escape it. It’s a way for me to address and counter my questions about what it means to be human…” – Junot Diaz
I write because I’m finally figuring out how to! I’ve had “the bug” since childhood but I’ve bowed before the god of perfectionism my whole life. I can’t even write a sentence. Just look at that sentence. It sucks. The verb is all wrong and the adjectives are unoriginal and the subject matter is tedious and no one will care. I would write one or two sentences and give up because I couldn’t nail it on the first try. And it was far too stifling — and not at all fun — to try to edit sentence by freaking sentence, or worse, word by word! So I embraced journaling — I could get my cobwebs of thoughts down on paper, but I wasn’t paralyzed by the fear of anyone else finding out how stupid I sounded. I have stacks and stacks of journals that I filled in high school, college, and beyond. And then I became a mother and I started blogging…occasionally (#Exhaustion, #LifeTakenHostage, #ThisGigIsNoJoke). And I just…journaled on the Internet. I just told the truth. (I was too undone by motherhood to do anything else). People liked it — that was cool. Apparently my little life isn’t as boring as I assume it is.
“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” — Anne Lamott
I write because I’m finally permitting myself to write badly and then sit on it for a while (or, on the other hand, to just bang out a few thousand words on this puppy and press “publish” because IT’S A BLOG, for goodness sake). Anne Lamott preaches “the shitty first draft” and that was huge for me: you mean everyone churns out crap when they first sit down and peck at their keyboards while being mocked by a naked Word document? Like…even published authors? Wait…like really bad stuff? YES, is apparently the answer. Mary Karr, celebrated memoirist, once threw out 1,200 PAGES of work because, in her words, they weren’t any good — that’s easily four books! Everyone struggles. To struggle with writing is not a disqualification. So I’m trying to embrace “done is better than good,” and also have some ongoing projects, neither done or good, and believe that the magic will come later.
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” — Shannon Hale
I write because I found a writer’s group a quarter of a mile from my house, so I can’t quit now! You guys: for the first meeting I attended, I had to write 500 words based on this prompt: “Three children are sitting on a log by a stream. One looks up at the sky and says…” And I wrote about three foul-mouthed teenage boys in a horror genre. It was so fun! Simon was like, “Why all the f-bombs?” And I said, “Oh it’s not me, honey, it’s my characters.” The next meeting, the assignment was to write 500 words inspired by the words “curiosity, broom, knife.” And I wrote an ER scene about two nurses trying to get an IV into a hysterical man who presented with a broom handle stuck in his rectum — I’m a nurse, what do you want from me? Both of these assignments were so fun, and nothing like the personal stuff I write for my blog. It’s been exhilarating to see that I can stretch myself and dabble in different art forms, if ever so mildly. The feedback is kind and thoughtful, not the intimidating “you suck” sort of stuff I imagined.
Also, the weirdest thing happens to me sometimes. People tell me I write well when I wasn’t trying to write well. Like, that my Facebook update was well-written. What the heck? That doesn’t count; I typed that out in two minutes as a little ditty about whatever cheesy picture I just posted. And so I’ve started to wonder how much I get in my own way. With my high and mighty ideals about transcendent descriptions and relatable voice, I wonder if I make it too hard and I should just tell the story. Huh. That’s interesting. Makes me think of the blog post I wrote about my miscarriage: I didn’t try to make it pretty because I couldn’t. I just bled at my keyboard; I didn’t censor myself. I told the story. And that piece was the most-read thing I’ve ever written.
“The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity.” — Robert Stuberg
I write because I have problems with authority and social norms and supposed-to’s. I do crazy stuff like eat a piece of my own raw placenta while hemorrhaging because I am a mammal after all (and I probably permanently established myself as the crazy lady at MOPS by telling this story on the “what’s the craziest thing that happened during your labors or births” Facebook thread, amongst posts from normal people like “I ate food” and “The nurse caught the baby”). I write because, if I’m being totally honest, I hate normal jobs. (This might be why I got a degree in nursing, actually…it’s a very weird normal job. There is so much poop and nudity and hallucinating). When I write, I can be free. I can be as weird as I like. And people can hate it. But they can’t do much about it.
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl
I write because, like the chick in Mean Girls who didn’t even go to that school, I just have a lot of feelings. Also, I ask questions like nobody’s business (mad props to my mother who had to watch movies with me for twenty years, and to my husband who has to watch movies with me until he dies). Writing is a really great outlet for feelings and questions — and I can ooze both of them without anyone becoming annoyed (well, at least, while I’m in the process of writing. The keyboard loves me unconditionally. Later, when people read it, maybe they’re annoyed. Maybe I’m whiny and obnoxious and never-satisfied. But at least while I’m writing it’s smooth sailing. I’m working on caring less about the reactions of others, realizing those don’t belong to me).
“Recognizing this reality — that the reaction doesn’t belong to you — is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smily sweetly and suggest — as politely as you possibly can — that they go making their own f***ing art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
I write because…that’s what writers do. Because this is who I am. I took a creative writing class in college and it was so life-giving. I wrote a short story called Marigolds about a pre-teen girl and her father navigating their grief after her mother/his wife passed away. It was heavy and tender and, I thought, beautiful. But after that class, I simply returned to journaling. I couldn’t actually BE a writer. It wasn’t practical. It wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t profitable. It wasn’t contributing to society (some say, I felt, etc). But what if none of that matters? What if I’m just a writer? What if it’s not what I do but who I am?
“I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence, because a lot of publishers turned it down!” — J.K. Rowling
I write because a younger version of myself wanted to write a book. A stripped-down, pre-marriage, pre-kids version of myself who had more room in her mind and time in her days. My twenty-year-old self didn’t care about what she didn’t know, or how hard it might be, or even if anyone read it. She was declarative: I’m going to do this! And why did she want to write a book? It almost seems like a silly question — she just wanted to. And I’ve got to give her credit; this twenty-year-old version of myself, not really a girl or a woman, was having a hard time. She was heartbroken, confused, lost. It’s a big deal that she had a dream. I want to do right by her.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison
I write because I want to connect with you. To be part of something that’s much bigger than myself. To communicate. To call out into the night, “Is it just me?” and to have you call back, “No, it’s me too.” And visa versa: to intercept your calls in the dark, your questions that haunt you, your desires unspoken, and to respond imperfectly but as earnestly as I can: I see you, I hear you, I value you. Writing and reading enable us to breach chasms in understanding, to tackle our dogged loneliness, to discover truth everywhere it exists. I delight in being a part of that glorious exchange.
“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.” – Nicole Krauss
For all these reasons and for others unearthed, I write.
Photo credit: https://jdspero.wordpress.com/category/writing-2/