Sometimes people ask me why I write.
I can never think of very clever, poetic, or sense-making answers to this question. I write because I just do.
However, ever since I read this post yesterday I have been trying to come up with a better answer to that specific question. Unlike the amazing Esther (who I met at the Faith Builders Retreat in July) I don’t write because I’m a poet, or because words are funny, or because I can’t speak. In fact, I love public speaking. I write because, let’s see…
I first began to write because there were so many stories inside me.
For instance. When I was a kid, there was a small quilt hanging at the foot of my bed. I used to attribute personalities to the different quilt squares and imagine stories about how they would interact with each other. I made up stories with my dolls, and toys, of course, and when I was six I started putting myself to sleep by telling myself stories in my head.
Eventually, I decided that I HAD to learn to write these stories down. It was terribly hard. I kept beginning stories, but never ending them.
I first began to write non-fiction because I wanted to remember.
It was around the age of twelve that I began collecting notebooks and filling them with songs, diary entries, and random thoughts and quotes. I also wrote down a bunch of my dreams. I was fascinated with myself, and didn’t want to forget any of the interesting things about my life or my feelings.
I continued to write over the years because word manipulation comes easily to me.
I am often envious of musical people, because the music just comes to them, and they can sit down and play something that sounds nice without much effort at all.
I envy artistic people, because they can simply sit down and draw something, and it looks beautiful.
I am not a musical person or an artistic person. If I want to play music or draw a picture I have to put in a ton of work but get very poor results.
I am, however, a word person. I have no trouble spouting out a clever zinger when someone insults me. It’s a breeze to write a 300 word essay on the way middle class woman’s roles changed during the industrial revolution.
I love music and art more than they love me, so they have control of me, making me work hard for the smallest results. Words, however, love me more than I love them, and so I have the power, manipulating them to do whatever I want them to do.
I write because “writer” is part of my identity.
For many years I had no idea if I was a good writer or not. Some people liked my blog. My writing teacher liked the stories I wrote. But for all I knew, people could be reading my blog because they were simply interested in my life, and my writing teacher might have low standards.
When I got my book deal, that changed so many things. It meant that people high up in the publishing world saw me as a good writer. It meant that I was now a REAL writer, with a published book to back it up.
As great as that sounds, as great as it was, it changed my thought process about writing. I used to think, “maybe I’ll write a book someday. It probably won’t get published, but it’s fun to dream.”
Now I thought, “I should write a book, because I could publish it.”
In many ways I am still stuck in my old “happy little writer” mentality. I write what I want to write, even if I am simply recording the funny arguments at the church members meeting, which I’ll never be able to publish without offending/disrespecting anyone. I haven’t written another book because of all the boring work involved in writing something that long, doing the proper research, and editing it to pieces.
Even so, a big part of the reason I write so much is because I know I can. There is a certain pressure added to being a “real writer.” People expect you to write.
And even more importantly, I expect myself to write.
It is always the question, isn’t it? In these desolate days, most of my writing is a dalliance or required for classes, and it makes one wonder whether any of it is going anywhere, or if this, too, is passing. I think, ultimately, I write because one of my primal motivations is to tell stories. I rarely witness any great perpetration of the creative impulse, regardless of medium, without instantly wanting to recreate it, but make it different, and make it mine.
And words, as you say, are just so nice.