In my post-Dover Post stupor a couple of weeks ago, I happened upon a neat writers’ help website called Wordhustler.com. The good people there sponsored a “Why I Write” contest recently, and, while I didn’t win, I did score an honorable mention for my submission, which appears below. I’m honored that Wordhustler mentioned me!
Why do I write?
Well, on a day when I’m moping about an evaporated writing opportunity and waxing hopeless about my future prospects, I too wonder, why? What is it inside me that drives me to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and even a shred of mental effort to a blog that scores its highest number of readers on days when Jack Bauer is mentioned?
Why not just give it up, I wonder, when writing can make me feel as isolated from the outside, productive, profitable world as a mid-’70’s version of John Travolta did, starring as the boy in the plastic bubble? Why give a voice (or any editing spiff, even) to words, however honest, poignant, clever, inspiring, informative, heartbreaking, or hilarious they may be, that may not be read by anyone—ever?
I was going to tell you that I write because I have something to say, but that’s just not enough, is it? We all have something to say; that’s why we have conversations, make speeches, know people and do things with them. Why we have friends, pets, and plants.
I also considered saying that I write because I have this tremendous expressive urge that makes me somehow less of a human being if I don’t write. True, writing does make me feel more worthwhile than, say, doing the laundry or driving a car, but I’m not really digging the irresistible urge image. It makes me sound like the ridiculous star of some Broadway musical, who can’t go to the bathroom without bursting into song.
Don’t laugh, but it crossed my mind for the briefest of moments that I write because it will earn me money. Then I realized (duh), only someone who has recently returned from a 1960’s Martian expedition would be out-of-touch enough to think that writing is a reliable money-maker.
With all that being said, here’s why I write:
My writing, unlike my socially under-construction, in-person quasi-self, is a powerful thing. Those pieces of mine which are lucky enough to see the light of day can persuade people to action. They conceive laughter and tears in my readers. They make seemingly perfect people admit frustrations, sorrows, and weaknesses that they’d never admit to anyone. My writing gives their vulnerabilities a home.
But I don’t just write for “them”—I write for me. Writing makes me laugh, usually at myself. It makes me cry, but only after pointing me to what really matters. It makes me admit what I’d never admit to anyone, in hopes that I will find someone else who “gets me” or more importantly, the act of writing helps me to “get” myself. It gives voice to the true “me”—the one that’s too scary, too loud, too nerdy, too dark, too sad, or too “out there” for anyone else to relate to. It carves out a place for me to be me—and in this solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life, that’s an awfully comforting thing.