Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I Write

Call me Pandora
I used to act in plays all the time, then as I had each of my three children, I began declining those opportunities. Being in a play usually equates to six weeks of rehearsals, three hours each evening, and (where I live) 4-6 weeks of performances. That's hard on moms and kids. By the time my youngest child was one, I hadn't performed in three years. I was still heavily involved with theatre, helping my drama teacher husband build sets, order costumes, find props--but I wasn't creating something that spoke to me, something that I could give and communicate to the world.

During that time, I stumbled on a box of old journals, poetry and short stories from years past, and I realized how vital writing had been in my life (though I didn't know it at the time). And I got that innocent and explosive idea (you writers know the one I'm talking about)--the one that says, "Hey, I could write a novel." Yes, I opened Pandora's Box. There were definitely demons in there, but there was also this raw, untapped part of myself bursting with ideas and an obsessive and unquenchable thirst to create.

Here's why I started to write back then:

  • As mentioned above, I desperately needed a creative outlet. I am an artist, through and through.
  • I needed to heal, physically, mentally, spiritually. I was in recovery from donating a kidney. And while writing truly did heal the aftereffects of that particular event, it opened up a whole new set of insecurities and challenges.
  • I needed to feel control. We had just moved to the other side of the U.S. My husband had a new and demanding job. Everything was different. And even though things were good, there was so much change, which led to lots of stress. My imagination was a realm I naively thought I could control. Little did I realize what power struggles I'd have with my characters!
  • I wanted a new challenge. I was crazy insane busy back then, but I wanted a struggle of my own choosing. It had to do with being proactive about something I wanted, rather than just doing the million-and-one things I needed to do.

Guess what? I still write for these very same reasons. However, here are some other reasons that have been added to the mix:

  •  I write because I'm supposed to. Because I promised myself I'd get in 1000 words a day. The truth is, sometimes we writers don't feel like writing. But because it's important, we get our butts in the chair. Sometimes the duty sucks pleasure from the desire, but I try to strike a balance.
  • And--uh, oh--the WORST reason: I write because I hope to make money at it. My family and I are POOR. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say my husband and I have lived at the bottom of the barrel for a looooong time. Making money is a strong reality in our lives. But it wars with my artistic sensibilities that demand I write what's in my heart, and I write to express truth. In the end, the artist in me wins, and I keep writing with that integrity. I just cross my fingers, in the meantime, that my stories will speak to many others as well.

Some days I get bogged down with life, I compare myself to other writers, I feel impatient, I think my writing sucks. Some days the "noise" of the Internet is too loud--the thousands of blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates. Some days it's hard to see where my part is in all of this, or if I'll make a difference. Some days I pull away and go into hiding. And it's then I remember--after lots of quiet reflection--why I started writing in the first place. And above all those initial reasons, the first and foremost is, I need to create. That's it. Simple. But with creation comes division. Separating lightness from darkness. It may be a foggy journey in the twilight, but I'll keep my flame burning. That's enough for me to see one step ahead of myself. And I'll keep striving to find joy in the journey.

Why do you write?


  1. I urge you to keep up that quiet reflection. That's what I have to keep doing lately, because everything is dragging me down so much that I've contemplating quitting several times. Just throwing my hands up and walking away. Dangerous territory. Ugh. So I'm finding things to help me get back into the quiet reflection you mention, and go back to why I do any of this. It's a good place to be, and I'm happy you are finding that place too. :)

  2. Excellent post. Making comparisons is so tempting and then so frustrating. I work hard to tell myself, "Nope. Not doing that." The more time that has passed since I started telling myself, the easier it's been to focus on my own path.

    The reasons why I write seem to change with time too. I think the most essential one is probably that when I do it, I feel most like myself.

  3. So great to read why you write. We all have similar reasons, and yours are good. I started writing to challenge myself, too. If I only knew then what I know now. :)

    BTW, almost done your book. LOVE!

  4. Love this post-it resonates with some of my feelings and issues this past week. I had to give myself a big-girl timeout and during that I remembered why I'm writing, made new "realistic" goals, and came back to the game more relaxed and ready to press forward.

    Thank you for sharing why you write. And don't be ashamed for writing because you want to make money-in the recesses of (most) every writer's mind is the desire to make money doing something they love.

  5. So good to reflect on why we started. And yes, the noise of the internet is definitely too loud sometimes. I, myself, love the challenge of it and the sense of fulfillment it provides. I suppose I'm an artist too, although it's taken me some time to figure that out.

    And the money thing, yeah, that'd be nice too. We can always dream, right?

  6. Wonderful post, Kathryn! I agree I sometimes don't feel like writing but I have to because it's my destiny. I don't know why I started writing...I think I found joy in it and that joy turned into something I'm passionate about. But what really matters is fulfilling that dream to your best of your ability and never giving up! :)

  7. Loved learning more about you my dear!

    I write because if I don't let my characters do their thing on my computer screen, they'll just keep talking and tap dancing in my head. :)

  8. Just like you, I need to create. I grew up near all the major Hollywood studios and had a dream early on that I wanted to contribute, but found writing to be the medium that best suits me. A movie deal is the ultimate goal. :)

  9. I found myself nodding to every reason you gave. I write because I need to/I am meant to - this is who I am.

  10. I write because I'm insane. No sane person would take on this life. :)

  11. For me it started out with a desire to learn to write so I could do a better job with my personal history. But I've had these stories going on in my head all my life, and I've found so much satisfaction in making them three dimensional that I have no idea when I'll finally go back to my personal history.

  12. I love learning why writers do what they do. I write because I love it. Because it's mine. And once I started I haven't been able to stop thinking about the next story.

  13. I loved learning more about all of you and discovering all your reasons! I think it's so important to stay true to our roots and why we started writing. That will help us find joy in the journey and keep us going when the hard times come.

  14. I love this post!! And don't worry about that last one, I can total relate because it's true for me, too. Yay for poor, struggling artists heh. ;)

    1. Three cheers for the poor and struggling! ;-) Thanks, Sara.

  15. This is a great post. I believe that it's important to reflect on the reasons behind why we do things. It will either re-energize us or make us realize that we should move on. I also like that why you write has grown with you and you've added two new items. That's a great goal of 1000 words a day. How long have you been keeping that clip?