Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Do You (I) Write?

Over the weekend I visited Barnes and Noble to pick up Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie for my son’s English assignment. While I was there I bought two writing books for myself. I love Betsy Lerner’s blog, so I picked up her revised and updated book, The Forest for the Trees.

I’m on Chapter 3. I love this book. I love Betsy Lerner.

Early on, Lerner reflects on why we write. And so I thought I’d try to put into words why I write. This is hard for me because it has to do with how I see and think about things, it’s an expression of emotion, it’s an otherness that’s difficult to explain. Ultimately it's a means of connecting and sharing experiences with others.

The Whys - Some of these reasons are why I wrote when I was young, some are why I write now.
  1. So I didn't have to talk. As a child I was extremely shy. "She's so quiet," was uttered by every elementary teacher I ever had. Other kids thought I was either quiet or a snob because I didn't talk. I’m not a natural conversationalist and I often stumble over words when I talk. It’s like these thoughts swirl around in my head and when I try to express them orally I often struggle for the correct words – not all the time, but it happens. However, I always thought writing was an "easy" way to express myself.
  2. As a teen I always had a yearning to express my joys, fears, anger, angst through writing. It became my release. I used to pour my heart out into my journals and when I reread those entries my mind and heart travel back to that time.
  3. I've always been emotional, creative, and imaginative as a child - always thinking about everything: the natural world – the sky, the ocean, a dirty snowbank (of which there are lots right now) and people – appearance, motivations, personalities, beliefs, body language, etc. I love how words can come together to create a world with characters that we care about that seem real.
  4. I’m a solitary person. And I’m (finally) okay with that.
  5. However, there’s still a part of me who wants that brass ring – call it validation, call it recognition, call it pride. I want to prove to myself that I can write a novel and, I admit, to prove to those in high school and college who asked Suzanne who?
  6. Praise feels good. When a teacher enters your poem to a children's publication or an essay to a citywide contest - that feels awesome. When a friend tells me, "Your letters make me laugh," you want to send her another.
  7. Mostly I write to connect with kids. The teen years were a time of highs and lows, trying to figure out what and who were important to me, struggling with self-esteem, wanting to desperately belong somewhere other than my family. I remember that time in my life, and often feel similar twinges in social situations today that take me back. I want to wrap that emotion and self discovery around a story that my readers can relate to – maybe recognize themselves in my characters - to let them know that they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to laugh at themselves, feel pain and sadness, and that they have the power to overcome anything.

Now it's your turn. Why do you write?


  1. I will have to investigate Betsy Lerner's blog now. I write for all the above too. I needed an outlet to express myself. I was often accused of being a "Drama Queen" by my mother. What better way to act out my dramas then on paper!

  2. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Lerner is smart, funny and tells it like it is (no sugarcoating).

    Thanks for sharing why you write, Ann. Do you know what's going through my head? "Drama Queen" to the tune of ABBA's "Dancing Queen."

  3. i am so glad you found a place to share your voice with the rest of us solitary types.