Why I write

I’ve probably written a reiteration of this post a few times already on my old blog, but the subject has been on my mind again as I juggle two kids, my job, and the ever-demanding needs of our home, not to mention exercise, seeing friends, occasionally attending church and trying to keep up with our extended family. Why do I still write? At any time I could go the way of so many other bloggers and give up my blog – I could cease putting the expectation on myself that I work on essays and fiction in whatever spare time I have. It seems almost masochistic to continue returning to the page when there are so many other things to be done and, let’s face it, I’m unlikely to ever earn a living solely from my creative writing at this point, although I suppose stranger things have happened.

All the answer I need, for myself and for others, can be found in this article:


Since I don’t expect you to click the link and read the story (I wouldn’t), I’ll summarize: A recently engaged couple is eschewing Pittsburgh’s long-held tradition of hosting a cookie table at their wedding reception and having a bacon table instead (okay, all you bacon freaks, get it out of your systems now – BACON!!). This article ran in the food section of our local paper so of course the article focused on exactly what kinds of bacon the table would hold (two sweet and two savory, for those of you who are curious) but for days – days! – I obsessed about the soon-to-be husband’s mother who asked so eagerly at the beginning of article “So, when do we start baking cookies?” How did she feel, I wondered,about bacon replacing the long-held local tradition of sending guests home with a box of cookies from the cookie table? Maybe she had looked forward HER ENTIRE LIFE to preparing the cookie table for her son’s wedding, and suddenly some obnoxious caterer was going to cover a table in…bacon? Chocolate-covered bacon? I couldn’t stop worrying about this mother – my mind kept returning to her over and over again. This is what happens when I don’t write enough – I become hung up on inconsequential news stories and the like, turning them over and around in my mind, spinning a dozen different narratives that take up space I could otherwise utilize, well, writing.

When I don’t write, my imagination bleeds dramatically into the every day, as well. If Sam doesn’t return a text my mind immediately goes to worst-case scenarios: He has had a fatal car wreck, he had a heart attack, the rapture occurred and left me behind! I also end up worrying and obsessing about people and things entirely out of my control – my cousin not inviting my parents to her wedding, for example, or my continously fractured relationship with my in-laws, for another. I will circle back again and again to issues and relationships entirely out of my control, desperately trying to make sense out of the nonsensical.

I’ve also noticed I tend to be more empathetic and have more compassion for people when I am writing. Once the practice of putting yourself in another’s shoes has begun, it isn’t easy to cease doing, and I’ve noticed I am more patient with humanity when I am writing than when I am not.

Perhaps more than anything else, I write because it helps me to understand the world, or at the very least it moves me toward understanding it. When I write, the voices in my head quiet down and external factors don’t matter nearly as much as they do when I’m not writing. Writing clears my head and my heart – it helps me see things more clearly.

I guess I don’t have to write, in the sense that I am not one of those writers who has written every day of her life, nor have I sacrificed my family life or my financial contributions to our family in order to pursue my craft. From the time I was 24 until I was 33, I always had a writing project underway and in recent weeks I’ve slowly begun returning to that level of dedication and concentration, and it’s really good. I can tell it’s good Even though my progress is slow – some would even say plodding – it’s steadying out my otherwise more chaotic nature.

Hey, if you write a page a day, in a year you will have a novel.

7 thoughts on “Why I write

  1. Glad to hear you’re at it again! You describe my writing life to a tee – over-active imagination that requires taming and a full and busy life into which writing must be levered.

  2. Cookie tables? Gosh, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’d say that’s a plus for your part of the country.

    It’s a plus for me that you’re committing to more writing. I always enjoy reading what you post here, and it’s clear that other writing you do gives you tremendous satisfaction. Remember what Annie Dillard said: “It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”

  3. I thought of writing this but you did it first. We’re definitely on the same page here! If you ever decide to write the story of the mother disappointed over the cookie table, I’ll read it!

  4. Wednesday Writing is Baaack! | Smithereens

  5. I don’t have to write every day. I do, however, know that writing helps keep me from getting depressed, so I can’t go too long without writing, and try to get in at least three or four days a week in which I get some writing — any writing, even if it’s just a long email to someone I’ve been neglecting — done. I completely relate to the overactive imagination, but I’m getting better (I think) about not letting it run to worry.

    P.S. A cookie table sounds like a great idea. So does a bacon table. I’d want both if I were getting married in Pittsburgh.

  6. Charlotte – it’s SO GOOD to be back at it again – and you are an inspiration! Watching you balance children and work and a husband and writing – it keeps me going some days!
    Shoreacres – cookie tables are AMAZING and anyone who would trade in a cookie table for a bacon table is just plain crazy. Depending on the wedding, sometimes the cookie table can be the very best thing about the wedding!
    Smithereens – I have no doubt she’s going to end up in something I write, sooner rather than later probably!
    Emily! Cookie Tables are AWESOME. BACON TABLES ARE JUST WRONG.

  7. Cookie tables are AWESOME! I agree – bacon is wrong. Totally wrong.

    On writing, I find myself being pretty inconsistent lately – but I always come back to it. I am often like you – struck by thoughts at some weird time and the only way to get them out of my head is to write them down. And even if no one sees it, it helps me to write it. So in a lot of ways, my writing is just for me and that’s OK.

    I enjoy your writing and am so glad you are blogging a lot!

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