Why I Write

  When I started writing, I ignored the many requirements of being a writer. I didn’t make deadlines for myself, had no coherent writing process and despised revision. Despite knowing my work was second-rate, I continued writing and also started reading writing books. I was hoping to find advice that would improve the quality of my writing. Through the help of these texts and constant practice, I grew aware of what I needed to do to improve. Now, I challenge myself to produce content weekly and develop long-term projects, while having a full-time job. The schedule can cause stress and fatigue, but it’s also enjoyable. I’ve come to understand that a first draft will never be perfect, and if the draft was garbage I wasn’t an incompetent writer for it. I learned to treat writing as a craft; to enhance and remove content to meet the needs of the project. And as I fell in love with it, I discovered why I write.

  When I look at the lives of people around me, I’m often reminded of life’s grace, but I am unable to recall those moments from my childhood. I noticed the extent of my memory issue when I was in a foreign language course. It required me to detail memorable parts of a vacation, but I was unable to recall them. When I think about events of my past I often have flashes of detail but not many of them have substance. Recent memories don’t require any strain to recall, but when I think back to high school years and further, my memory is a haze. I can’t remember many important events, like the day I graduated high school or the day I left for the military. Without these memories, my life has felt lifeless, so I sought to counter this problem.

   About a year ago I started writing about things that happened in my past. When recalling an event, I take all the memories I can and attempt to rebuild a narrative. It doesn’t always work out and often I build a false narrative. But through confirmation of events I’ve regained memories that I now deem precious. I’ve come to understand that by contemplating these individual events I am allowing the memory into long-term storage. In January, I wrote an article describing my personal religious journey called Religious Journey of the Rational Man. Before writing that article, I didn’t realize where my influence toward atheism came from. As wrote the article, I remembered the after school “hang-outs” with close friends. Where we would exchange ideas and thoughts as freely as we exchanged thoughts. I remembered the energy which the more studied of our flock talked about issues. I wouldn’t have thought to look there but it was one of the influences in my religious journey.

  “Writing is thinking on paper.” Or at least that’s what William Zinsser says in his novel On Writing Well. According to Zinsser, the writing process should resemble deep thought and therefore be deliberate. My attention issues don’t allow me to work that way for more than a few minutes. Usually my thoughts are fleeting without a means of slowing them, which, if left unchecked, would result in an incoherent product. Writing requires me to force these rapid thoughts onto paper and synthesize them into a proper segment later. By practicing this way, I’ve become capable of delivering a finished thought faster, which then lends a hand in my future writings. Training to slow down my mind to combine these thoughts, has led to ideas and associations I would have otherwise missed.  

  I write to create. Most writers do. But creating was difficult for me at times. In my teenage years, I was in the high school band and played a few instruments. I loved composing music and reproducing composers’ pieces, and it helped me feel free to create. I eventually moved away from music and was left with no medium to focus my creativity. I still felt a longing to create, but I ignored it because I was more preoccupied with work. I couldn’t figure out how to express my need to create but eventually I remembered the multitudes of notebooks I kept in my room as a child. They were filled with poetry, daily journals, ideas for novels and other half-finished fiction. I remembered the accomplishment I felt when I finished a work and the joy it brought me. No one would read the work, but I would feel that way regardless. I realized I should write again.

  The answer to my struggles has always been writing but I’ve simply neglected it. In elementary school I tried writing short stories for competitions; in high school I filled notebooks with poetry. But it all stopped when a teacher told me I couldn’t write well. After that there was a constant nagging that echoed her words this made writing feel appalling. But my urge to create endured the nagging and awaited my eventual return. I tried multiple times to start writing, but each felt unsatisfactory; I always remembered her words. I learned to ignore the voice that had become my inner critic. I focused instead on the immense satisfaction of creating a work — the urge that brought me to writing.

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17 thoughts on “Why I Write

    • AUSTIN WIGGINS,though my past is very like yours, I was blessed with a 10th grade English teacher who suggested I spend the year in creativity with a goal of producing something to submit to Rod Serling, as he knew him professionally and thought my talent worthy of encouragement. My Dad died and we moved, as Mom remarried, so the project was neglected…but the flame had been sufficiently fanned. I can no more cease writing than breathing, be it a blessing or a curse, so Isay to you, “Write on!”

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  1. My experiences don’t match yours, but your blog speaks well to every writer’s need. We need to know why we write and I believe that is one of the most important truths about writing. When you know why you write you can overcome obstacles, including negative comments by others. I would only add that you shouldn’t allow yourself to be hurt by these comments, but turn them into positive motivators. For instance, when someone says you can’t write, ask them why. Then use that answer to attack the very problem they indicated (assuming there was an actual problem). Positive feedback is far better, but you won’t always get that. Thanks for opening yourself up and writing on this subject.

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  2. The problem with being a writer is it creates a need within to be shown approval. Someone told me once that a writer lives in their own mind. I am not sure of the complete truth of that, but I see it as at least partially true. I believe positive feedback feeds a writer and blind criticism starves them. Continue writing, continue seeking ways to improve. And in the end you will always grow as you write.

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  3. It’s so sad and meaningless to have the people who should be encouraging you to say you don’t have what it takes to reach your passion as a possible career. I hear and read about this so often and am so stunned by it. I was always supports and reassured that I could do what I most desired. With this said though, I wonder if the lack of adversity is what stopped me from trying harder to get to where I wanted to go. I may be one of those who needs the battle.

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  4. I’m so glad you learned to ignore the inner critic (and the voice of your high school teacher). Having an outlet for creativity is so important, and you have a found your calling in writing. Thank you for this piece and the reminder to keep going, even when it seems impossible.

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  5. I agree, “writing is thinking on paper”, it forces you to slow down and spell stuff out. I sometimes surprise myself when, while writing, I “get” things that I wasn’t aware of.
    What do teachers think they’re doing when they tell kids they are not good at something? Aren’t they aware of the negative – and lasting – impact they make?

    Like

  6. I’ve always been too hard on myself when it comes to writing. It took me years to realize that this perfectionism was keeping me from creating as much material as I wanted to. I’ve just realized I need to take a different approach. Glad you came to the same conclusion.

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