“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.” – Anne Lamott
Asking me why I write is a bit like asking me why I eat, why I breath, why I enjoy a cool breeze on a sunny spring day. I just… do.
Some say writers are born writers, but I know some amazing writers who didn’t start seriously writing until later in life. Some think writers are made, but I don’t know if you can make a writer the way you might make a bowl, shaping and smoothing a spinning lump of clay until it becomes capable of holding something more than itself.
When I think about why I write – or how I came to love writing – my mind feeds to me a series of moments, and I can’t venture to say which of those moments are most important.
Discovering the Magic of Books
Before I loved to write, I loved to read. I vividly remember discovering Beatrix Potter books in elementary school, holding the tiny treasures in my hands; they fit so perfectly. I remember the shelves of the Oakland library in Pittsburgh, and I can tell you exactly where in the library I found The Secret Garden, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and War of the Worlds (which I never finished reading because it scared me so bad).
I can tell you where the poetry stacks were, a mostly abandoned corner full of dust and magic. I’d sit on a stool meant for reaching high shelves and randomly select poetry to peruse and enjoy. I discovered T. S. Elliot, Emily Dickenson, and Sylvia Plath in those stacks.
I remember where the non-fiction health and science books for kids were found. When my little brother struggled in school, I ventured into the adult science stacks and took out scholarly books on dyslexia and education, so I could help him. When I watched a babysitter’s daughter get injections for childhood diabetes, I opened up the World Book Encyclopedia, intent on discovering a cure for her somewhere in the pages. (Children can be so hopeful!)
Books were one of my most prized possessions as a child, so much so that one of my worst childhood nightmares involved having “bad guys” steal all my books. I still have a great love of books and reading. We have fourteen tall bookshelves throughout our home. You can’t enter a room without finding books.
Writing, Writing, Writing
“Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.”– Decimus Junius Juvenalis
Really bad poetry with 10th grade geometry notes.
I remember writing my first poems and stories in middle school in a small, tan journal, but in high school, writing became a disease. My math notebooks had poetry written along the margins and between practice problems. I wrote poems as gifts for friends. I wrote stories and poetry between classes, at night in my room, in the mornings before school. I walked around writing poetry in my head.
I had notebooks and notebooks of free writes, something no one ever taught me about but just came to me naturally. I wanted so much to write that I wrote even when I had nothing to say. I’d write until I discovered what to say.
In college, I studied mathematics, but I never stopped writing, and was sure to take a few writing courses whenever I could. A freshman English professor, Professor Gurney, pulled me aside and told me I should be a writer. She mentored me, worked with me one-on-one, and pushed me to write better and better.
My first son was born just after I graduated, and I started looking for work I could do from home. I found a group called Momwriters and discovered I may actually be able to make a living doing what I’ve always loved.
I took a couple classes, bought a few books (of course!) on writing, and started sending out work. Before I knew it, I had my first article published, and not too long after that, my first book.
Since then, I’ve had hundreds of articles published in national, regional, and web publications. I’ve won prizes for my poetry, story stories, and essays. I’ve written three books total, held editorial positions, and taught creative writing to other aspiring writers.
And I feel like I’m just getting started.
Why Do I Write?
I write because I love to read. I write because I love to learn.
I write because I love to help people with their problems. I love to deeply research issues close to my heart and offer that information in understandable ways.
I write to change the world, to burst through ignorance, to empower people, to teach.
I write to give others access to their own feelings. I write to provide people an experience I’ve had so many times when reading a wonderful poem or story or essay, that sudden burst of realization: “Yes, this is me. Someone else understands me. I am not alone.”
I write to discover and understand myself.
I write because it is my art and my passion.
I write because I don’t know how not to write.
I write because I am a writer.