Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Write

In my small Midwestern hometown, there were two things that people talked about a lot: football and farming. But for me, almost every sport was dodgeball, because I always ended up getting hit by the ball, even when I was watching the game. In an attempt to fit in, I joined the track team. They put me in the relay race first, but I kept accidentally tripping the other girls, including the runners on my own team. It was like watching a stack of human dominoes fall over. The coach finally had me running the half mile, so that I would be by myself and thus decrease the likelihood of knocking anyone over. But I came in last in almost every race, except for one race where I came in second to last.

When I wrote, I didn't have to worry about people making fun of the fact that I couldn't run very fast, except when I was running away from the ball. I didn't have to worry about being picked last for the team. None of my main characters in my stories are athletes.

When I was younger, I wanted to believe that the fantasy worlds that writers created were real. I wanted to believe that the people in fairy tales really existed, and that there was such a thing as a happy ending. I wanted to believe that there was something else out there, something more for me.

When I wrote, I could escape to a different world that was all my own, away from the kids who made fun of me or ignored me at school, away from their parents who made comments to my parents about how I was so shy and quiet and read too much, away from the town that was my home but where I never really fit in. I could create my own world with my own characters, and I could write my own happy ending. In my world, I always had the last word.

In high school, the guys teased me, ignored me, or asked me for help with their homework. When everyone else went to prom, I went to Dairy Queen. I pretended that it didn't hurt me when my friends told me all about prom night and showed me pictures of themselves with their dates. I wrote down everything that I felt and everything that I didn't have the courage to say to everyone else.

I grew older, and I started writing chick lit. I used my own failed attempts at finding love as the basis for my stories. I wrote about the bad dates and the guys who didn't call. I wrote about wanting to punch the TV whenever one of those online dating commercials that featured happy couples came on. I wrote about the guy who posted a picture of himself French-kissing a giraffe (I wish I was making that up) in his online dating profile, the guy who wrote that he believed he was a cat in a former life, and the guy who wrote that he was looking for "an exceptionally beautiful woman with a morally relaxed attitude towards dating". In real life, these guys were just weird...or disturbing. But writing about them made the whole experience of online dating funny and more interesting.

After I got my master's degree, I started teaching at different schools around the city and working in retail at night and on the weekends. It left little time for a social life. But at least once or twice a week I would go to a coffeehouse and write for an hour or two. It was something that was just for me, and it was a relief to write fiction after spending hours grading papers or making lesson plans. I wrote about how overwhelmed and exhausted I felt about working seven days a week, and I wrote about how I felt like my twenties were passing me by. Those trips to the coffeehouse gave me something to look forward to, and my writing kept my work from completely taking over my life.

If I had never become a writer, or if I had stopped writing years ago, my life would be completely different. I would be completely different. It would always feel like something was missing from my life. That's why I can't stop writing. I don't want to stop.

What about you? Why do you write? What motivates you to keep writing?

Side note: Check out Theresa Milstein's blog, Theresa's Tales of Teaching Tribulations and Typing Teen Texts! She is hosting a Halloween Haunting; this contest gives people the opportunity to promote their own blogs and check out other people's blogs. The prize is a free book!


  1. I'm fascinated by people and their stories to such an extent that I like to make things up about them to make the stories more interesting. Did I find out what town you're from? I think you told me once.

  2. I write because I'm a crafter at heart. I love creating things. Even though I am constantly frustrated by writing, I love the feeling I get when I create the perfect sentence or find just the right word. I read so much, and find that there's something else I want to say beyond the page. So I write to find out what it is and to tell others about it.

  3. Oh, I loved this post. I started writing for the same reason as you - I loved to escape to different worlds - and mainly to be in control of things. I still enjoy having that power.

  4. I write because when I stop writing I go a little bit crazy. I hear voices in my head, they dont tell me to do things, they are typically separate characters having their own conversation about something else, and if I dont write down what they are saying they will keep saying it, over and over and over again.

    So, I either write, or go insane. Writing seems like the safer choice.

  5. Hi Karen,
    I did tell you which town I'm from; I sent you an e-mail about it a while ago.
    People are fascinating. One good thing about writers is that they make people see that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to other people.

    Hi Anna,
    Writing can be frustrating, especially because it's so time-consuming. But I think it's worth it; like you said, writing that perfect sentence can be very satisfying.

    Hi Talli,
    I know what you mean about being in control of things. Real life is so uncontrollable most of the time, so it's comforting to be able to make all the big decisions in fiction.

    Hi Sara,
    I like the way you described your characters. It shows that they've become real to you and that they're insisting on being heard. And through your writing you're able to make sure that they are heard.

  6. Writing is your outlet, your release, your way of making sense of the world. I can relate to your reasons for writing, especially the part when it helps to sort through the not-so-pleasant side of being human. And I can see how your online dating experiences would make for good book material. There are a lot of wackos out there!
    Excellent post!

  7. This post is why I like to write for children. Being a kid and teen is hard. There's so much pressure. They expose you to everything, but we're not good at everything. So we feel awful about what we can't do until we're older and can specialize.

    Books were escape for me too. As an adult, I sometimes wish the fantasy worlds in certain books are true. Writing is also an escape. I guess what motivates me are the stories in my head that won't go away unless I put them down on virtual paper. And I hope that readers want to live in my book world someday.

    Thanks for the link to my Halloween Haunting!

  8. I've figured out that I write for the escape and control. I actually didn't start in earnest until the year I turned 40 - and you're exactly right, I'd always felt like something was missing. When I started writing, I found it. :)

    Happy Haunting!

  9. Hi Theresa,
    I like the idea of readers wanting to live in my book world too. How cool would it be if we could do that, because then we could go to our favorite writers' worlds and meet not only their characters but also the writers themselves?

    Hi Nicki,
    The good thing about writing is that it allows you to escape every time you sit down to write. I think it's better than escaping through television or movies because this way we get to create our own stories.

  10. Hi E.R. King,
    Sorry for the late response! I thought I'd responded to your comment already. Anyway, I'm thinking I might be able to get more than one story out of online dating. One good thing about online dating is that it's helped me escape writer's block more than once.

  11. I love this post. Thank you for sharing more about how you started writing and what it means to you.

    I honestly can't remember a time when I wasn't writing. It wasn't until I met Michael that I had the courage to work it into a career. I love words and how a single sentence can convey so much thought and emotion.

    I can't imagine a day going by without writing something. It's my oxygen.

  12. Hi Shannon,
    I like how you said that writing is your oxygen. I totally agree, because I think that writers don't just want to write; they need to. I think that's why it's easier for us to keep writing, unlike other people who talk about writing books without ever actually sitting down to write.

  13. Great story!!

    I write because I feel like my opinion is not often voiced and I want to share my thoughts with the world. I also use writing as an outlet to think and to say things that I may not verbalize.

  14. Hi Lissa,
    I think that our opinions are part of what makes our writing unique, because we each have our own understanding of the world and human nature.

  15. New follower here! I too wrote to escape... Now I'm stuck in prison with a keyboard at my hands! Oh, but what wonderful therapy! Awesome blog!

  16. Hi Jamie,
    Welcome to my blog! You're right; writing is great therapy! It helps me sort out what I'm feeling, and more often than not it makes me feel better.