I had always dreamed of making it as a full-time writer. Somehow, here I am, every day waking up and driving to a coffee shop to write a book.
In the midst of that, as I’m filled with amazement that I’m actually doing this writing thing, I have to ask myself—why?
Why do I write? Why do any of us write? Why write?
Why do we write?
I used to think I was writing to make a name for myself. I thought I was writing to one day sell lots of books and make money.
But while it’s only been a couple of years since I’ve become a “full-time” writer, each day I come to realize more and more that writing was never about the prestige or money.
I want to take a minute to reflect and remind us why we write.
We write so we can live.
This last week I wrote over 10,000 words. That’s a lot. It was one of those weeks I just couldn’t stop. Thoughts, words, and pages poured out of me.
It wasn’t a stroke of luck that hit me that week—it was life. It was a week of heartache and pain, and I constantly found myself saying, “I don’t know what to do.”
So I wrote.
It was some of my greatest, deepest writing. I reflected on life, relationships, and letting go. I honestly don’t think I would have survived this last week if I had not been writing.
And while we so often tell ourselves to find our audience and imagine our reader, there will always be times we need to write for ourselves.
It’s a strange concept, but as a writer, not everything you write will be for a grand audience. You will write so that you can live.
We write because we see differently.
The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
Everyone sees the world differently. As writers, we see the world in words.
A chair will never simply be brown and wooden. It will be worn and stained. It will wear coffee rings and tear stains and tell the stories of each.
We see the world in textures and colors that never are what they seem to be. We see the people around us as puzzles and characters, their stories waiting to be written and told.
The young couple holding hands under the Eiffel Tower are not as carefree as they seem, while Parisian pressure tightens their grip.
And I write because I wonder, “What if I am the only one who can see it?”
What if I am the only one who can see the stained chair and tell its story? What if I am the only one who can see through the couple in Paris?
If we neglect to write these stories that only we can see, will they be lost forever?
So we write because we see. As writers we each see the world in different words and have an obligation to write them.
We write because it is who we are.
In Annie Dillard’s essay The Death of the Moth, she writes about what it means to be a writer.
How many of you, I asked the people in my class, which of you want to give your lives and be writers? All hands rose to the question. You, Nick? Will you? Margaret? Randy? And then I tried to tell them what the choice must mean: you can’t be anything else.
You can’t be anything else.
You will write because it is who you are. You will write on sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, in coffee shops and on street corners. You will write thousands of words that may never be read, but you will write them anyways.
We write because, honestly, most days I don’t feel we have a choice. It has become who we are, how we think, see, and speak.
Why do you write? Let me know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to work on the writing that compels you right now. What’s the writing you feel drawn to, inspired by, interested in today? Maybe it’s your work in progress, or maybe it’s a story that’s been brewing in the back of your mind for days. Maybe it’s a blog post, or maybe it’s a journal entry you’ve been wanting to put down on paper.
Whatever it is, take time now to work on it, and let it remind you why you started writing in the first place. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section and leave some thoughts for other writers.