By: Jess Zafarris
Last month, we called for our readers to share the motivations behind their wondrous words and reasons behind their love of writing—via Facebook, the hashtag #WhyWeWrite on Twitter, and via a writing prompt. From hundreds of heartfelt responses, we sprinkled some throughout the February 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest—but saved even more to share here!
Note: The names associated with each response are usernames from the respective platforms on which our readers responded. If you recognize your work and would like to see this article updated with your real name or linked to your website, please let us know in the comments on this post.
I am my characters and my characters are me, but we are very different versions of each other. I am not so brave as my detectives and elvish warriors, nor am I as witty and sly and beautiful as my cheerleaders and renegades. I write to become those versions of myself. I write to sink into those souls and skins and be reborn under a different, unfortunately fictional, sun. A sun that promises brighter fates and futures. I write to be reborn into my fictitious realms and universes, which hold adventure and magic and everything else that I lack.
I am an angsty teen with extravagant ideas that I condense and place onto a page. I realize my poems are dark and painfully real. I realize my stories are wild and far-fetched and very unrealistic, but these are the things that develop my style. Reality is cold and unforgiving. Writing, however, is anything you want it to be. Writing is freedom, love, bravery. Writing is death, pain and sorrow. Whatever direction you want your stories to go in. Writing is a way of forming thoughts into deep, magical words that pierce the human psyche.
I’ve always been obsessed with stories and how they are written and rewritten. I have considered myself a writer for a very long time. In elementary school, I was told by multiple teachers that I “have a gift.” Many of them thought I had been helped by my parents when we would receive writing assignments.
I remember in third grade, we were writing short stories that were maybe a hundred words long. It was the first story I’d written. Mine was about an undercover superhero named “Dead-man” and his dog, Mutton Chop. I was so proud when my teacher asked me to display it for all the parents to see at the open house. By the next year, I was writing up to four hundred words and by the time I was “graduating” from my elementary school in sixth grade, I was already planning to write a novel.
That first attempt at a novel, obviously, fizzled out quickly and I began leaning more towards poetry. Towards the end of seventh grade I ended up with one of my poems published in a book.
Writing is a way of escape. To break away from the suffocating and dreary world around me, or sometimes, to forever encase my sorrows amongst many others in a notebook or journal or diary. Writing, for me, is like the emergency exit of living. I write because I know that even when nobody will listen to me and hear my voice, the paper will never reject my pen.
When I write, my words can’t get twisted into something they are not. My words belong to me and, of course, anyone who wishes to read them. But they are still my words. I am an artist. I am a storyteller. I am a poet. I am an author. I am a writer.
Cosi van Tutte
Why do I write?
I write with the hope that my words and characters will make other people laugh and cry and cheer and hope and dream.
I write because the “All I Ask Of You” reprise from the Phantom of the Opera musical made me think “I want to write something emotional like this.” And I am always striving towards that goal.
I write for the sheer joy and fun of it. It is my way to relax at the end of every day.
I write because if I don’t write, my stories will never be told. My characters’ voices will never be heard. And my worlds will remain unexplored.
I am a child of the 1970s who grew up in a blue-collar section of a New Jersey suburb. I clearly recall the first time I realized that the world saw me as different, as less than, because of the color of my skin. I remember how that one comment snatched me viciously out of my childhood bubble. I remember questioning my worth, even though my parents told me over and over again that nothing anyone says changes my worth, unless I let it. I didn’t know how to process this. I had so many emotions. So I sat down and wrote as fast as my little 8-year-old hands would let me.
I remember how my rage poured out onto the page. I threw the paper aside and cried. Then I went outside to play. A few days later I happened to read what I wrote and I couldn’t believe those words came from me. That’s when I realized that there is this well of love and wisdom and acceptance deep inside me that knows exactly what to say to me when I am hurting or sad or just can’t seem to make sense of what is going on, but I can only hear what it wants to tell me when I write.
So, I write to share my well with the world.
The heart and soul of a writer lives in the words on the page, regardless of subject, intent, style or theme.
This has been my mantra, my understanding, of reading and writing for many years now. I believe that writing will tell you more about the writer than any words that ever come out of their mouths, whether the author wills it or no.
Writing like all forms of art, is ultimately about expression. The expression of thoughts, ideas, and emotion. Through reading and writing, we as humans can connect on a deeper level than what can be accomplished through almost any other means. Regardless of time, space, circumstance or any other typical barrier to empathy and understanding, there is truth on the page. You can feel my heart, see inside and understand the essential “me.” And I you …
I came to writing later in life and only after a big-ticket moment that knocked everything into place. Suddenly, I had a lot to say and couldn’t stop saying it. All wonderful, because I’m a gonzo at heart, and gonzo characters can get away with so much more than I can in “real life.”
I write, because I want to reach the end of my imagination and then break through it. Writing helps me lose or find myself, depending on what I need to feel, and when I need to feel it … it gives me the chance to live thousands of lives in thousands of realities, exploring every possible scenario no matter how grandiose or minuscule it might be. Through the order I put my words on paper, I can create everything and look from the eyes of it all.
To me, writing is a superpower like no other; it can be art, it can be a simple instruction or it can be a weapon. I write not because it gives me the power of a god, but because it makes me feel human. I write because I should, I write because I can, because I must. I have tried not writing on purpose, and I didn’t last long; writing is an itch that can be scratched only by itself. It’s a question and an answer at the same time. I write, because it helps me live, not simply exist. I love it. I hate it. I am disappointed in it, and I am also proud of it. Writing is a mental mirror, an extension of yourself that helps you communicate with the pure reflection of what your soul is.
I think, therefore I write.
Writing is fun. I love the challenge and excitement of sitting down at my computer (the panster writer in me) and allowing my imagination free rein to spill out a story. Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing? It’s also a great way to relive pieces of my life and weave them into a nonfiction or fiction story. I enjoy the adventure of panster writing, but I’m learning that plotter writing can be incredibly freeing as well.
Douglas E. Baker
I write because that is when I am most myself and least myself. I pick the subject from my mind and heart, I gather the words from my mind and ear, but I write from a stream that flows from beyond me or deep within me. I may hate to begin writing, I may love to have written, but I definitely live in the space between the two.
I write to discover myself. The words I put down tell the tale my speech can never seem to capture.
I think Victor Hugo summed up my writing experience when he said this: “A writer is a world trapped inside a person.”
A bitter January wind swept across a cemetery just East of Weatherford, Texas.
My wife and four daughters walked a grassy knoll to Leslie‘s burial site. My fourth
daughter’s casket lowered quietly to a freshly dug grave. Tears came of course along with Leslie’s message which pounded my mind, “Dad, write about your life, we know so little about you. Please do it for me. Don’t worry, I’ll be safe with Jesus.”
I had written reports, business letters and memos for 40 years. I started, five
days later, to write about my childhood summers at Avalon, on the Jersey coast.
My writer’s voice, awkward and clumsy, described a young boy’s wonderment of a summer’s vacation.
Through my tears, I allowed a small smile as I felt the sea breeze brush across my face, the smell of the ocean and the touch of damp sand as it worked it’s way between my toes. 60 years of my life vanished as if it never existed.
In the still of a morning bathed in first light, a vow I made.
Why do I love writing?
In a way, that is a complicated question. Why? Because I haven’t been writing all that much.
Sure, I’ve written in one form or another over the years. There is the painfully boring technical writing that has been a part of my career. But I wouldn’t call that creative in any sense, and I certainly don’t love it.
And then of course there is the agonizing over an unsent email or text message to my ex. Did I word it adequately? Are there any unintentional triggers in there that will result in a couple hundred more dollars going my lawyer’s direction?
Lord knows that writing needs to be creative, but again I don’t love it.
So I guess that is why, here in the middle of my life, I am exploring new paths for my writing. But I am just getting started back up again, and have not done much at all. I have simply committed to do it, or at least committed to try.
Do I love writing? If I were honest I would say, I don’t know yet. But I can say with confidence that I love the idea of writing.
Once upon a time …
People can’t fly.
We can’t disappear with a puff of electric grey smoke.
We can’t slay dragons, we can’t teleport, we can’t be brought back from the brink of death with a kiss, and we certainly can’t call on a fairy godmother when our true love turns out to be a toad.
So sat I, adolescent and full of hormonal strife and teenage angst, on my bed with the lights turned off and the windows open. I ripped a piece of paper from my science notebook and penned a letter to the universe. I confessed my anger and asked why it was that my arms were too long and face too oily and that when I spoke sometimes the wrong words came out but I didn’t dare say I did anything wrong because it would mean that some part of me hurt someone else and that I sometimes fantasized about walking through the walls and into the forest that ran alongside the football field and finding a hole and becoming a mole person and learning how to see things in the dark so that I wouldn’t have to trouble anyone anymore and the more I wrote, the more I realized that my friends had said the same things.
And we laughed about it at lunch. And, my mom and dad assured me that maybe a kiss can’t bring us back from the dead, but it can certainly make us feel alive, and I saw the words on the page as a beginning.
And today, with my adolescent awkwardness pinned to my lapel, I am still beginning. I write because I know somewhere there’s someone else who needs to hear my words because they are stuck—glued to the pavement and they need to hear that people can take to the skies. I write because I slayed a dragon. I write because fairy tales and warp drive can be as real as the air we breathe. Our words are our echoes, and I write because I can only shout so loud with my voice.
My entire life people have always asked my why I write. I never really know what reason to tell them, besides the fact I simply just enjoy it. When growing up you would always see me with a pen and paper, just jotting down little things. It was sixth grade when I had decided to take up writing. We had just found out that my grandfather had cancer and I didn’t take the news so well. My counselor suggested I start keeping a journal, so I could write how I felt at every giving moment. Since that moment writing just stuck with me. I took journalism in high school and I haven’t stopped writing since. It’s my way to escape to my own world.
When I talk, awkward garbage spills out. When I write (and rewrite!) I’m elegant and precise.
When I write, truths that aren’t usually heard are given a place, a face and a purpose.
I can’t compose music & my dancing career is over, but I can compose and choreograph words on pages. When it’s good, the words dance & sing.
I love writing because, after I write, I can then read the story that I want to read.
It forces me to condense my thoughts and document things most meaningful to me.
I write not only to prove I was here, but so I can look back and see a book in my life.