This question was posed in my writers’ group yesterday: Why must you write, and when did you discover you wanted to be a writer? I am grateful to have been asked that question at such a time as this (a season where I’ve let my writing lapse), and below is the answer…a work in progress.
Why do I write? I write because my love compels me to — my fascination and infatuation with the potent potential of words requires that I play with them. I must exercise new and glittery ones at regular intervals — I must find their meaning, absorb them, and receive the transference of verbal power. I am in awe by the idea that with a few strokes of the pen — or taps of a keyboard — I can search my personal lexicon quarry and build a structure that previously never existed. Writing is my Adam and Eve creation story — taking a piece (or pieces) and making a new and unique whole. I like sewing words together as a designer makes couture — fashioning them into something beautiful and bigger than life and odd…having the freedom to show off and hear applause.
Why do I write? The finite confines of my mind require it. Thoughts press up and against the perimeters of my brain like straphangers on a rush-hour train. The pressure must be relieved, or there will be pushing. The thoughts and words that carry them must be freed. They have things to do and people and places to make seen.
Why do I write? My introverted self-awareness demands it. Through the written expression of my thoughts, experiences and ideas, I come to know myself. Writing helps me to see me more clearly. When I stop writing, the shores of my self-understanding begin to erode. I must write to see and understand myself and my world.
Why do I write? Art moves me to it. I am inspired by the inspired. Creativity begets itself. A striking dance, an emotive song, a book I can’t put down, God’s painted sky at dawn, all these set my desire to write aboil — churning them up from deep down. I write because I enjoy reading, and I want to make what I love. It is a great joy to turn a page and learn something or find myself in someone else’s world. Writing is my ode to writing — and to everything beautiful.
I write in pursuit of honest communication. I write because I want to be able to mean what I say when I tell people I’m a writer. I write so that you’ll know me. I write to exist in minds beyond my own. Because a small part of me knows that my thoughts matter (as do anyone’s), and I want you to know what I think. My humility is both a lie and the truth. I am both insecure and haughty. The words that escape my mind’s grasp in conversation congregate more readily when I sit with pen and paper or computer. I write so that I can choose my words carefully, so that I can weigh them, hear how they sound, and see how they look together. I write because I talk faster than I think, and writing helps me to go slow — makes it more likely that I’ll reach my intended destination and not get lost down some tangential road. I write to avoid the roadblocks of my insecurity; writing makes me more bold. I’m stronger on paper that in person.
Writing is something I’ve done since childhood. It was how I entertained myself when I was bored. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s veranda in Grenada on summer vacation and writing plays for Barbie. I wanted my dolls to have character development and plot when I played with them. Now I enjoy writing non-fiction — using my hopefully growing lexicon Legos to build in miniature how I see the world.
Why don’t I write? Why do I hesitate, procrastinate and hide? There are so many critics, and most of them reside in my mind. They tell me I can’t do my own thoughts justice — as if. They tell me I haven’t yet learned to discern the difference between faith and foolishness in myself. They tell me failure is imminent, persistence futile. Superego, please don’t fill me with fear. There are enough critics on the outside. I need my internal space to write my way out of doubt.
This piece originally appeared on the blog Write Away.