At some point in her career, every writer attempts to answer the question, “Why do I write?” My answer has always been: I have no idea — no explanation, no justification, no purpose beyond the moment of my finished work. But now the question won’t leave me alone; it’s in my face demanding a response. Why do I write? The clichéd answer (because I must) comes first to mind, and there is truth to it.
I can’t seem to not write, no matter how tired or bored I am with my efforts. My mind fills, overflows, gushes, stores, and flushes words. There seems to be no end to the rush and flow of language, a waterfall of thought swirling around in the pool of my mind before continuing downstream, where it exits via my mouth or my pen.
If I’m lucky, I catch a few words and string them together to construct something meaningful, much like building a paper chain, the kind we used to make from colored strips of paper. Words are like these strips. You have to bend them, glue the ends together, connect them through the loops of other words. But still, it’s not that simple.
Why do I have this urge to analyze, comprehend, and verbalize all I see and feel? Unlike other writers I know, I have no burning message, no grand illusion of inspiration or greater calling — most often I don’t even know what I want to say — and yet I have this compulsion that forces my pen across the page, or fingers over the keyboard. It’s as though I don’t know what I think until after I’ve spoken or written it down. I have no illusions that what I write is the Truth.
I have wondered if my urge to write is a narcissistic indulgence, a case of wanting to hear my own voice, of falling in love with a reflected image of Self. Or nervous compulsion, the symptom of an overwrought mind. Either or both of these could be true. But my need to write feels like more than that; it impels me forward. I want to make matter of the ethereal, to bring thought into being, just as the gods and goddesses of ancient myth brought all of creation into being with their words.They formed creatures from stories, and gave humans the capacity to make stories of their own.
So, I have come to believe that everything is story. Life is story. Death is story. Ideas are stories. Fiction and nonfiction are rooted in the same imagination and borrow from each other. (Can you spare a cup of dialogue?) Story helps me understand the past and present and anticipate the future.
Maybe the simplest answer to why I write is that I feel most at home in my skin when I am playing with words, forming phrases as the Cheshire Cat formed wispy O’s from smoke. And, in spite of writing’s trials and tribulations and sweat and angst and self-doubt and self-deprecation and desperation, I am the most Me when I write. Simply put, writing brings me joy.
And that is why I write.
Why do you write? Please share your story, leave a comment.