If you read my March Goals post, you’ll know that I’m trying to write more this month, which means I’ve been thinking about the art of writing a lot lately. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about why I write.
I read interviews with other authors and writers and bloggers and creators, and more often than not they talk about having to write. Not writing is not an option. It’s as if the words will flow out of them, whether they want to or not.
That sounds great. It certainly sounds like a great interview answer – an answer that can be quoted and re-tweeted and put on motivational posters to be sold on Etsy.
Unfortunately, that’s not why I write.
And for a long time I thought that made me a bad writer. A fake writer. A not-a-real writer. I thought that because all these successful wordsmiths describe writing like a force of nature they can’t control, I must be broken. Wrong. A false prophet, if you will.
Because I’ll be honest with you, writing is hard. And there are some weekends (a lot of weekends really) where writing is the last thing I want to do. I enjoy writing, even love writing, but if I never wrote another word, I could survive.
So why do I write? If some spirit within me doesn’t compel me to put pen to paper (or fingers to laptop), then why do I write? Why am I agonising over submitting pieces to publications? Why am I desperately trying to make a career out of my words?
In truth, I really don’t know why I write. But I think it has something to do with this:
When I don’t write, I feel fine. I’m perfectly content, whiling away my hours with Netflix and walks in the countryside and singing cheesy love ballads with my fiancé. When I don’t write, nothing really changes.
But when I do write, I feel light. I feel a kind of lightness that I didn’t know existed – the kind of lightness I didn’t know I was craving until I felt it. Writing, for me, is simply the emptying out of my brain, and then suddenly realising that actually, my thoughts were very heavy and were weighing me down.
When I do write, I answer questions I didn’t know I was even asking. Writing has taught me more about myself – my thoughts, my feelings, my processes, and my desires – than any amount of therapy ever could (although, let’s be honest, I should probably go to therapy as well…)
When I do write, I feel a kind of energy in the pit of my stomach. It’s not an energy that compels me or feeds me or drives me forward. No, it’s an energy that lifts me – gives me a kind of perspective that nothing else could ever give me. Writing is my was of accessing a bird’s eye view of the world and my place in it.
So no, I don’t write because I have to.
If I never wrote another sentence again, I’d survive (well, actually I’d have to get another job, but still). I’d probably even be happy. I’d certainly have more time to go for runs and watch documentaries and read. But if I never wrote another sentence, I’d never get to feel that lightness again.
And although the lightness isn’t essential to my life, it is a bloody nice addition.