Why do you write?

Throughout the month of January, WordPress is sending participating bloggers a writing prompt each day. It’s a way to find some creative inspiration and perhaps make connections with other bloggers. My entries in this blogging challenge will appear here under the tag #bloganuary.

I’ve written for most of my life, for a variety of reasons. A student teacher in my ninth-grade English class once commented on a paper I had written that she really liked my style. It was a brief comment that I am quite sure she forgot within seconds of writing it, but it encouraged me to think that perhaps I could become a writer one day. It was one of the reasons that, though I was painfully shy, I chose to join the staff of the school newspaper in high school, and why I eventually chose to study journalism in college. Her encouragement is one of the reasons I write today.

Part of being introverted, in my experience, has been an inability to think fast on my feet, so to speak, so writing allows me to put my thoughts together more carefully and succinctly on my own schedule. Before there was email, I preferred writing letters to making phone calls, and today I would much rather email or send a text message, if possible, than pick up my phone and call someone.

I began journaling when I was about sixteen years old, a practice that I have maintained almost daily ever since then. Journaling helps me sort out what I believe, what I think, how I feel (or should feel) about whatever is weighing on my mind, and helps me organize my thoughts. In times when I have found myself under highly stressful conditions, I can hardly wait for a few moments of solitude and quiet in which to process what’s happening in the pages of my journal. I’ve been at this for more than fifty years.

I have also written because there was a time when it was my main job–I worked for quite a few years as a technical writer at a university computing center, and writing fed my family and paid my rent. I have also written because it was an essential part of most of the other jobs I’ve had over the years. For example, while I worked for the university I wrote a newspaper column on computing for the local newspaper for several years near the beginning of the commercialization of the Internet, and I also wrote numerous sermons over the years when I worked as a staff pastor at a church.

Peeling back the layers a bit further, though, I believe that part of the reason I write (and this goes back to being an introvert, too, I think) is that I desire to be known, and writing is one of the ways I attempt to accomplish that. I’m certain that this is part of why I have focused so much on writing memoir in the past few years, as I’ve gotten older–I want my children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) to know the stories of my life. Maybe it is a hedge against being forgotten when I’m gone. It probably is something like that.

But with all of that said, frankly, the bottom line is this: I can’t help but write. I can’t imagine not writing. Whether I am ever published again or not, I cannot envision a life without writing in it. I am grateful for the kind of life that affords me time to write, and for having had so many opportunities to do so in so many contexts over the course of my sojourn here.

Happy writing, fellow scribes.

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