Why we write?
It is almost midday and the sky is dark. The thick layer of smoke from the coastal fires arrived last night and engulfed the city. Never to miss his walk, come rain, hail or sunshine (or smoke) my husband is already out while I sit in bed, notebook in hand, staring out of the window. My heart is filled with gloom the smoke has brought with it and I want to do nothing else but write.
Sometimes we forget why we write.
Writing is so hard, especially if you are making a living doing it. And then there are the demons of doubt. Am I any good? Is there anyone reading what I write? Does anyone care whether I write or not? Am I wasting my life following a passion that no one else cares about? Why break my heart over this impossible task? I should cook instead, or maybe clean. Or better still do some charity work.
But writing is the only work I want to do regardless of its perils.
“We need to look at why we read to understand why we write,” says Barbara Abercrombie. When I read her words in her post I understood.
At 3:00 am this morning I was once again dipping into A Year of Magical Thinking and Joan Didion was putting into words what I was feeling.[…]
So when Joan Didion writes: “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it……Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless itself.”
We write to find comfort.
It was C.S. Lewis who said we read to know that we are not alone.
Life is hard and written words provide comfort. Some of us discover very early in our lives that books can provide solace at times when nothing else can. There comes the time when just reading can’t carry us through, it is then we discover writing.
My daughter, Paula. died on December 6, 1992. On January 7, 1993, my mother said, “Tomorrow is January eight. If you don’t write, you’re going to die.”
She gave me the 180 letters I’d written to her while Paula was in coma, and then she went to Macy’s. When my mother came back six hours later, I was in a pool of tears, but I’d written the first pages of Paula.Isabel Allende in Why We Write?
We write to create order out of chaos.
When I wasn’t writing, I was reading. And when I wasn’t writing or reading, I was staring out the window, lost in thought. Life was elsewhere — I was sure of it—and writing was what took me there. In my notebooks, I escaped an unhappy and lonely childhood. I tried to make sense of myself. I had no intention of becoming a writer. I didn’t know that becoming a writer was possible. Still, writing was what saved me. It presented me with a window into the infinite. It allowed me to create order out of chaos.Dani Shapiro in Still Writing
We write so that we can live.
The writing is a way to cope with the atrocities of life. The more life got harder, the more the heartache and pain became unbearable, the more I write.
It was some of my greatest, deepest writing. I reflected on life, relationships, and letting go. I honestly don’t think I would have survived this last week if I had not been writing. I wrote for myself.
We write to make sense of this world.
Sometimes this world we live in doesn’t make sense at all. To understand it you need to understand yourself. You need to bare your soul. You need to strip yourself bare, which is necessary to tell the story you need to write which is not easy. Sometimes writing can be exhilarating and satisfying, but those of you who are writing something close to the bone know what I’m talking about.
Writing about trauma is more than simply documenting experience – it’s about illuminating life on earth. It’s about transforming tragedy into art, and hoping that somehow that piece of art may help someone else who’s gone through something unbearable and who doesn’t yet see that there truly is a light at the end of the dark tunnel.Tracy Strauss
We write to find beauty.
Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened, and its deepest mystery probed? … Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaning, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?Anne Dillard in The Writing Life
We write to give a gift.
When we write our stories with honesty and generosity about our lives, and with meticulous care for our craft, we are giving the world a gift. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
We who make stories know that we tell lies for living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best as we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story… And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or conflict. And that is why we write.Neil Gaiman
We write to be heard.
There is a common perception that you become a writer in order to write lots of books to make a lot of money. Or you are writing to make a name for yourself. Nothing can be far from the truth.
We write the things that we can’t say out loud because the things we feel the most are hard to explain.
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.Audre Lorde, author poet.
We write so that we can listen.
I write because it is while I’m writing that I feel most connected to why we’re here. I write because silence is a heavyweight to carry. I write to remember. I write to heal. I write to let the air in. I write as a practice of listening.Andrea Gibson
We write because it is who we are.
Everyone sees the world differently. Writers see the world in words.
What is it about writing that makes it—for some of us — as necessary as breathing? It is in the thousands of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are at our most engaged, alert, and alive. Time slips away. The body becomes irrelevant. We are as close to consciousness itself as we will ever be. This begins in the darkness. Beneath the frozen ground, buried deep below anything we can see, something may be taking root. Stay there, if you can. Don’t resist. Don’t force it, but don’t run away. Endure. Be patient. The rewards cannot be measured. Not now. But whatever happens, any writer will tell you: This is the best part.Dani Shapiro in Still Writing
We write because we want to make a difference.
I write memoirs because I have a passionate desire to be of even the tiniest bit of help. I like to write about the process of healing, of developing, of growing up, of becoming who we were born to be instead of who we always agreed to be. It’s sort of a missionary thing, to describe one person’s interior, and to say we’re probably raised not to think this or say it, but actually all of us feel it and have gone through it, and we all struggle with it. I feel like it’s a gift I have to offer to people, to say, “This is what it’s like for me, who you seem to like or trust. We’re all like this. We’re all ruined. We’re all loved. We all feel like victims, we all feel better than.”Anne Lamott in Why We Write About Ourselves