“Why do you write?”
Maybe seven or eight years ago, I started reading books on writing. I was feeling called to unearth a passion that I hardly did in my leisure time anymore at the time. And I remember one book—whose name escapes me now—asking me that exact question: “Why do you write?” Because that question will guide you whenever you’re lost, stuck, blocked, or hopeless. It brings you back home.
I had to really reflect on that question. “I write because I do,” I thought initially. I’ve always written.
I remember being maybe six or seven. I wrote a story about an alien species who had magical powers but didn’t know who they were, so they couldn’t use their abilities. And only through falling in love, despite hardship, did the two main characters begin to wake up.
I wrote stories and poetry constantly. I even published a few in kids’ books around that time. I was always seeing the world. Watching it unfold.
When I was 12, I wrote my first screenplay about a popular girl who ultimately committed suicide and the subtle objectification the main character felt—both glorified as this ideal person and yet reduced to a container for those ideals, without her own subjective voice. The story watched her downward spiral, ever hidden and always masked by a smile.
When I was 16, I wrote my first novel. I knew from the beginning that I’d probably never publish it, like the screenplay. But publishing was never why I wrote. And this one was once again studying popularity—or social order—from the lens of class differences. It was a first-person narrative by two characters in alternating chapters—two characters who come from different backgrounds, experiences, and plights but are forced to interact over the course of a few months. At the time, I was fascinated with the way socially imposed ideals organize themselves into a social hierarchy.
When I was 22, I wrote another novel. And this one, I thought I might publish. It was expanding on the idea of my initial novel, with alternating first-person narratives, but this time choosing four characters instead of two. And because the backdrop was life in the city, rather than high school, I had the ability to explore more topics like income, gender, sexuality, social class, socialization, and job industry as the ways in which social identity is developed. I remember at the time that I had a little book club—maybe 15-20 friends and family who would follow along as I wrote. I’d send out a chapter whenever it was finished, and they’d read on. In the end, though, I chose not to publish.
Ironically, the only long-form piece I ever did publish was non-fiction. And one I had no real intention of writing. But an opportunity for a book deal fell into my lap, and it seemed a good a time as any to publish. So I did. And it’s a bit silly that somehow that’s the opportunity that gives me the ability to stamp “author” on my identity. Because a publishing house wanted to print my words.
And, for the last several years, I’ve written on here every weekday (or most of them, anyway). And I don’t write because it’s a good return on investment for a business (hint: it’s not). And I don’t write because I’m trying to somehow gain exposure (believe me, “10 surprising ways…” articles would really do much better).
So why do I write? Why have I always written?
I remember—vaguely—what I wrote down to answer that question so many years ago. I wrote something—stream of consciousness, of course—about how I write because I have to. Because it’s like breathing. And I’ll suffocate if I don’t. Because it’s not something I do on pen and paper (or even a word document), it’s something I am. It’s what I do when I stand to the side for a moment at a party and look around. It’s what I do when I’m listening intently to someone speaking. I can’t help it. I write because it’s the way that I get to commune with myself, my soul, my everything. And it’s so beautiful. And so painful. And so honest. So I write. Because I can’t imagine anything that could be a better use of my time in most instances.
I say it a lot here, but it bears repeating: I’m happy if you’re reading along. And I’m even happier if you get a lot of benefit from this blog. But it’s not for you—at least not primarily. It’s for me.
Now, I don’t say that because I’m intending to be arrogant in some way. But because it’s true. And important and why I write.
If it weren’t for me, I probably wouldn’t do it. I’d find a lot better way to share my work with people. And I probably would end up writing those “list-icles,” like “10 ways to…”
But I write because it helps me see myself and the world. It helps me have a relationship with myself and the world. It helps me to connect with what’s inside. And express myself. Not because it’s necessarily smart or wise or profound every day (and who am I to even judge whether it is or isn’t?). But because it’s me. It’s always authentically me. And I don’t need to always be perfect to share myself with the world. I don’t want to only share the stuff that’s tidied up with a pretty pink bow. I want to share all of me. I am always worthy. I am always deserving.
So I show up. And I write.
For me, writing does a kind of beautiful thing. It takes what’s inside your heart and your soul, and it puts it out in front of you. Like all forms of art. You get to see all of that chaos of tumult and love and power and passion externalized. Right in front of you. And you get to fall in love with yourself and the world all over again.
I write because I love the world. And I love myself. And everything I write gets to be a love letter to that.
I really couldn’t imagine a better use of my time in most instances.