I’ve written in general terms about why writers write (to put food on the table, to be read, just because they love to, and so on), but have I told you why I, personally, like to write?
First and foremost, I love words. Putting them together, mixing them up, getting creative with different combinations. They’re like the best toys ever.
- They’re cheap; an unlimited supply is available for the cost of a dictionary or a good internet connection.
- They come in endless varieties. Not only are there different spellings from different regions or countries, but there are so many different flavors English. Italian. Spanish. German. Chinese. Arabic. Cherokee. Swahili. Not to mention dialects, accents, speech impediments–all things that add further flavor to the simplest of words.
- Forget about variations, the basic words themselves are endless. There are more being invented every day, of course, but it’s also fun browsing through old dictionaries and books to find words that have fallen out of usage. Talk about an unlimited supply!
- Not only are the words never-ending, there are even more ways to put them together. I know, you can’t have “more” than infinity, but if the list of single words (Cat. Bag. Rug. Desk. Chair. Computer.) goes on forever, it seems like the possible combinations are even more limitless. (The cat sat on the rug. The bag was on the desk. The desk chair rolled on the rug. She sat in her chair and turned on the computer.) You get the idea. Infinity squared. How can you not be excited by that?
I don’t know about you, but I started wanting to write because I liked to read so much. All those bedtime stories Mom read to me when I was little? The picture story books I’d borrow from my sister? (“This is probably too hard for you, but if you want to look, you may.” Which, of course, that I absolutely had to read it.) I was reading by the time I was three, and the family joke is that I haven’t stopped since.
It wasn’t too long after that that I started to write down my own stories. I produced my first “book” somewhere around the time I was 8. I laboriously typed it on Mom’s old manual typewriter, folded it in half, drew a cover illustration on construction paper, and asked my Dad to run off photocopies at the office. (The book, incidentally, was called The Last of the Really Great Mallomars and was a direct knock-off from my favorite book, Julie Edward’s The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. But, well, I was eight, and since I wasn’t selling copies, I’m pretty sure there was no copyright infringement to worry about.
The point, though, is that if you are obsessed with reading, it’s entirely possible you’re going to want to write, too … which is exactly what happened to me. And even if it doesn’t make you WANT to write, reading is going to give you all the tools you need to do so. It’s a win-win activity, so far as I’m concerned. If only I had realized then–when Mom would tell me to turn my light out and go to sleep, I could have told her I was preparing myself for my future career as a writer … do you think she would have bought that?
Because I Can
In this world that encourages modesty and a lack of braggadocio, it can be difficult to shout your skills and talents to the skies. But. Writing is something that I not only can do, but can do well. That’s an extremely satisfying thing.
It’s one of the hardest reasons to state, though, because it not only sounds like bragging (sorry, Mom), but also because it opens me up to people coming along, pointing fingers, and saying, “Her writing is terrible. Look at all those broken grammatical rules. Choppy sentences. Dangling modifiers. It’s just awful.” To which I can only say, well, okay, but have you read some of the authors on the best-seller lists lately? You don’t have to be technically perfect to tell a good story.
Writing Makes Me Think
What? You don’t think so?
The world is such a busy place. There are so many errands, distractions, tasks, jobs, duties, pleasures, and things that finding time to commune with your thoughts is hard, if not impossible. But if I force myself to sit down with a pen or keyboard and write something, it has to come from my own head … which, often, leads to, you know, thinking. They may not be deep thoughts, but still, they’re coming from me, which means I had to stop and commune with my brain for a few minutes. Can’t let it feel neglected, you know! And if jotting down a few notes in a letter to a friend leads to some deeper thoughts, or triggers an idea for a story or an article? Even better.
Not to mention rewarding.
Writing Helps Me Be Myself
In many ways, sitting down to write something feels like getting back in touch with my brain. Much like a painter who finally finds the time to pick up a brush and place it on canvas, or a runner who puts on her shoes and goes out the door–writing touches something that makes me feel like ME. Not the part of me that does all the chores and jobs of a normal day, but the me who was enchanted by all those books Mommy read to me when I was little. My deepest self, the part that is enchanted by a good story. (Honestly, the quickest way to get my attention is to tell me a good story–I don’t care if the point is to entertain me or to sell me something, but if it’s good, I’ll listen.)
What About You?
I know. I’m not as driven to write as some writers–the ones who are absolutely passionate about writing something, anything, all the time. (Though, yes, I’ve definitely been there! The entire time I was writing my first novel, I couldn’t wait to sit down in front of the computer each day. Talk about job satisfaction.) But neither do I consider it a chore. It’s something I enjoy, something I’m good at, and just as much a pleasure as puttering around the kitchen, or knitting a sweater. I’ve written fiction for pure pleasure, and I’ve written marketing pieces and business mailings for work, and I’ve enjoyed all of it. It’s satisfying, picking from all those millions of possible word combinations and putting them down in just the right way. (Whoever said the only “creative” writing was fictional writing?)
But–what about you?