Why Do You Write? An Exercise

I think it's important to know why it is you do what it is you do. Whether it's figuring out something small like why you ate a whole pint of mint chocolate chip ice-cream on a Tuesday night, or something big like knowing exactly why you decided to pursue the career you've chosen to pursue. I believe it's vital to learn what inspired your decisions, to know what compels you. If you can answer those questions honestly, you'll know yourself a lot better. You'll understand your motivations, and if you don't agree with your motivations, if you don't think they align with your current values, you can drop whatever it is you're doing and begin making better decisions for yourself, ultimately creating a more fulfilling life. 

Recently, I decided to dig deep into the origins of my own story and ask myself why I write. I had hit a few roadblocks in my mind, and I wasn't having as much fun with it. Writing is really hard and isolating, and I wasn't experiencing the kind of success I set out to achieve when I started out.

In order for me to decide if writing was something I would be able to continue to do indefinitely, if it was something I could once again find fun, I would need to ask myself why I was doing it in the first place. 

So. Why do I write?

It all began 

where everything usually begins: in my childhood. I wanted a dog more than I wanted a treehouse, bunkbeds, or a Barbie Power Wheels, and that was saying A LOT. Even though my parents ritually dismissed my wish lists, when my tenth birthday rolled around, I tricked my brain into thinking that there was a tiny shot in hell my mom might surprise me. 

It was down to the wire, I sat at the end of the table, hair in a side pony, candles on my white funfetti birthday cake blown out, hands clasped waiting for the big present reveal. My mom entered the kitchen holding a large box draped with a red and white checkered tablecloth. I could tell it was heavy by the hunch in her shoulders. The contents were quiet and still—a well behaved dog. My parents would never regret their decision.

She set the box in front of me and ripped off the sheet revealing it's contents.

A f*cking typewriter.

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I didn't ask for a typewriter 

and I didn't ask to be a writer. It just happened. The same way my mother dumped that hunk of plastic into my world, the universe, the gods, my genetic—whatever the source—gave me this need to write, and somehow she knew about it before I did. It would have been cool if it was solely mother's intuition, but I think the fact that my favorite week at school was the Scholastic Book Fair tipped her off.

Stories

have always captivated me. Television, movies, books, ghost stories around the fire—gossip. I've never cared how I got my beginning, middle, and end. All that has ever mattered was whether or not the story made me feel. Did I get scared? Did I get to laugh? Cry? Discover something new about the world or myself? Stories in all forms, helped me to discover the different textures of the human experience, and somewhere along the line, I felt inspired to tell my own. It began with over-sharing and speaking out of turn in school, and blossomed after my first creative writing assignment in the second grade: write a story about a magic feather. I had never been more excited to do homework. After that, I wrote short stories, game boards, and put on plays for my parent's tipsy guests. I even started a magazine with my cousin called ME magazine (Marian + Elizabeth, I wasn't that self obsessed). Our best article was about the neighborhood flasher—so salacious. I made copies of the magazine on my dad's copy machine at work and from that day on, I was hooked. I had to be a writer.

But was it reasonable?

When I was a teenager looking at colleges I told my father I wanted to be a writer. His response: "Do you want to be poor?" I wasn't thinking about money. I had never thought about money. He scared me enough to go to college and get a degree, but eventually I returned to my roots. I knew then it was a crapshoot. I know now, it still is.

The vast majority of writer's don't make huge amounts of money, and if they do, it's only after years of tightroping the poverty line while they refine their voice and search for their big break—neither of which are guaranteed.

I know I might not ever have a huge audience, I might always be entertaining crowds small enough to fit in my childhood living room, but still, I forge ahead. I know, no matter what, I'll find ways to tell stories in whatever flavor of format I'm preferring that day.

But why?

I don't have a choice

My brain has never allowed me to passively experience anything. I am always attempting to make sense of the world around me, and when it doesn't make sense, I want to make it funny—I have to make it funny. Writing is my escape, its my way of organizing the chaos of existence. Creating my own beginning, middle, and end is the an antidote to the unfinished busyness of my anxiety ridden brain. 

And most importantly, I love to entertain. If I can offer a brief respite from the repetitive, sometimes painful mundanities of life, if I can make people feel less alone, less ashamed of themselves, if I can make them laugh, I ought to, and I'll continue to try.

Why do you write?

As an exercise, scribble in your journal all the reasons why you think it is you write. It might re-ignite your passion, or you might decide to drop it all together. I hope it inspires you. You might even end up writing a short story about your own writer origin story. If you do, please comment and share your experience with me below.