Writing is one of the defining aspects of my identity. It’s a focus of my undergraduate studies and is something that I am actively and professionally involved in, as the Editor in Chief for the Cincinnati Republic and as an independently published author. So, naturally, on an almost daily basis I get asked, “Why do you write?” And, to be fair, it’s a very valid question.
Writing is not the most lucrative vocation, nor is it the most engendering of goodwill. Not every author is celebrated — the majority are not — and to be fair, those authors who we do celebrate also have their foils. For every Shakespeare there is a Ben Jonson or Christopher Marlowe and for every Drake there is a Meek Mill or Pusha T.
But what routinely draws those that take pen to paper back like moths to flame is more abstract than the miniscule chance at fame and fortune, and I contest that it’s even more than a simple love of craft.
I believe people become writers, pursue writing, and dedicate themselves to writing because — like any other art form — it enables them to express the intangible beauty of the human soul in ways previously unavailable to them.
The author Terry Tempest Williams approaches this very topic in her piece, “Why I Write.” It’s a prose poem in which she tries to extrapolate why she has dedicated her life to this craft. In it, there are many lines which I resonate with but a few that stood out to me in particular. I would like to share them with you, in hopes that anyone reading this whom may be unsure about sharing their writing with the world may find the will to do so.
“I write out of my anger and into my passion.”
Writing, as any form of expression does, attempts to make sense of the chaos of human nature and the quagmire of emotions that accompany it. Often, humanity’s most destructive tendencies arise out of our anger. Writing enables me to temper my anger and frustration into a calmer and more logically based passion. If we act on an angrily inspired whim, we will rue it.
“I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness.”
The hyper-secularization of contemporary society can often make us feel very dismally about the state of affairs our world is in. Writing enables us to express sentiments that our peers may be able to relate to and may be able to find comfort in. We can find refuge in the shared wisdom of others.
“I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by syntax crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding.”
As is the case with all things, Newtonian logic applies to writing; for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction. When you write and publish something, you attach your name to it. When you publish content, you will illicit reactions; that’s the point.
Sometimes the reactions inspire us, and other times they discourage us. However, we must always remember we are responsible for what content we put out into the world and associate with our name. We all grow and change, and what you write now may not reflect how you view the world later in life, but as writers that is a risk we must take.
Writing is one of the most uniquely human things we can do on this planet. For me, it’s one of the greatest thrills of all.