Terry Tempest Williams wrote “Why I Write” (published in a collection of narratives on first-person writing, Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Philip Gerard). Here are just a few of the inspiring lines:
I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write because it allows me to confront that which I do not know. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness. I write past the embarrassment of exposure. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.
Terry’s words give me that delicious feeling all good writing does: I feel cracked open and deeply relaxed, and I feel an urgency to write.
When people ask what I write, I never tell them about my decades of journaling thousands of pages, and in the last five years, on the computer. How can I account for writing that will never be published, that never could be, in the form in which its written? It is essential to my life. This has been true for so many others. Journal writing has helped people survive inconceivable horrors. Most recently, the woman kidnapped at eleven years old, Jaycee Dugard, published her memoir (A Stolen Life) and in it are printed several pages from the diary she kept throughout many those years of torment. Journal writing was her only friend. Anne Frank’s journal was her only friend when she desperately needed one. And Virginia Woolf wrote to herself in longhand in ways she could never write for the waiting literary world, though posthumously, those journals became as well known as the novels that made her famous. Still, that is not why she wrote. Like Terry Tempest Williams, these women I mention here wrote “as a witness to what I have seen.”
Inspired by Williams, I will answer the same question: Why do I write?
I write to say hello to myself when the world is quiet and I can hear. I write to connect with myself when the world is noisy and I can’t hear. I write to take photographs. I write to make peace. I write to find answers. I write with the hope of a new view. I write because it is my first language. I write to record exchanges that have already vaporized but help me when I remember what was said. I write to give myself something to hold onto. I write because just looking and listening isn’t always enough. I write because the pale green moss clothing the redwood branches outside my window isn’t there for only one reason any more than the shimmering hummingbird is there for a single reason, pointing its beak into the pink gladiola and beating its wings into a feathery blur. I write to be a witness to what I have seen. I write to tell stories that help me understand my life. I write to give purpose to experiences that seem senseless. I write because the rain is never just water falling from the sky. I write because, besides being held in my lover’s adoring gaze or beholding beauty that leaves me speechless, there is no higher moment of being like there is when language sends me skybound. I write because it feels like a warm handshake. I write because no one is listening and when no one is listening I am free. I write because it is something I always have and so much is often out of reach. I write for the scream of it. I write for the whisper of it. I write for the song of it. I write to tell the story and give it new endings. I write to take endings and turn them into beginnings.
Why do YOU write?