Why I write
I write to figure out what I think, to slow down the world around me long enough to see with clarity. I find it difficult to formulate cogent thought without a pen in my hand or my fingers poised above a keyboard. And then I write some more as this initial thinking is still so ill-formed that I need to go at it again. With each subsequent draft, I get closer to pinning down what I know and where I stand.
I write to play. I have great fun turning a phrase, seeing the possibility of poetry in the prose I’ve composed. Or in rescuing plot lines from certain narrative death. I love marrying images to text and how their interaction incites me to write even more. I love attempting what I haven’t before, learning the rules and bending them to my will as I go.
I write to stay connected. I email friends who live far away and stay connected with others on Facebook and Google Plus. While others may post scads of pictures and status updates, I prefer long leisurely “letters” (what you call “messages”) to childhood pals. And yes, occasionally, I write letters longhand too. I even write because my friends are writers. It’s what we do to have fun together.
I write to comfort others – the friend who lost her son to suicide, a former teacher who lay on his deathbed, a cousin battling cancer. Words that others have sent my way have provided me solace in times of despair. I only hope that those I offer give strength for those intended. I write too to celebrate – graduation, a new job, a baby on the way, or simply to tell others I love them. Each occasion worthy of words.
I have to admit that sometimes I write to show off how smart I am or how funny I can be. Pathetic, I know, but I love having made someone laugh or to have someone pass along what I’ve written to another as being just too good to miss. There’s just too much of my father, an inveterate storyteller, in me. I’m also competitive. If a friend has recently had something published, then I know that I’d better get cracking.
I write to change others’ minds. I write to convince my students that writing and reading are actually good uses of their time. I write to persuade Congress to fund literacy education. I cite my students’ accomplishments and claim some of the credit for them as I am a writer too. I write to cajole my colleagues to write themselves. I write to open up businesses’ purse strings for the local non-profit preschool where I volunteer. I write to rave about a book I’ve just read. The list could go on and on.
I write to be a better teacher. I write so that I appreciate exactly what my students experience as they attempt to communicate with others. I write so my students have someone they might apprentice themselves to who can give them the skinny on how to get it done and done well. I write to foster my reflective practice, to better understand why what I’ve taught was successful or less than what I hoped for. I write because I cannot teach without doing so.
I write to have written, for the sense of accomplishment that comes from having worked hard at something, for the pure pleasure and terror that revision affords, and for having left my mark on the world. Joan Didion, an essayist I admire, once said “In many ways, writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.” I feel exactly the same way.
Thursday, October 20th, is the National Day of Writing. Why do you write? Post your response on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #whyiwrite and let the rest of us know.