Why I write

I’ve been writing all my life. And so have you. Poems, diaries, notes to pass in class. Assignments, articles, marketing pieces, speeches, blog posts. And now books. Almost every child born in a first-world developed nation grows up writing as part of their education. And most adults still write daily, whether as part of their job or to communicate via email or text.  Even my husband, who very much dislikes the act of writing, now writes and edits pages and pages of financial analysis narrative every day. So writing is a de facto essential part of life for us all.

I choose to write because of my love of communication, of connection, of words themselves and of the process of putting them together. It’s like a puzzle, albeit with no definitive solution. A frustrating, chaotic mess of thoughts and feelings boiled down, organized and placed just-so for others to consider. The act of cobbling words together into phrases and then paragraphs is soothing and challenging at once. There are rules to follow and deep satisfaction in complying with those rules.  (In fact, I remember feeling the same joy both when diagramming sentences in English class and balancing equations in Chemistry. And, yes, I realize that makes me sound a little nuts. But it’s also a good clue that this is what I should be doing, right?)

Yet, as with all forms of art, there are no hard and fast rules for getting it right. It is supremely subjective, and simply following the rules doesn’t guarantee that it will be fun to read. So the work of crafting the written word is tricky, to say the least. Producing the elusive “perfect” turn of phrase is so enticing as to incite addiction or madness. And, even after the rare sessions when you think you’ve nailed it and triumphantly call it a day, snapping your laptop closed with smug self-satisfaction, there’s always the chance you’ll revisit your words the next day and see something completely different. You’ll read your own work with new eyes and think it’s horrible. What was glowing and profound the day before is now embarrassing drivel. Pure junk. Who-would-ever-want-to-read-this, straight-to-the recycling-bin, I-should-quit-right-now-and-go-into-the-family-ditch-digging-business junk. Clearly, this process can be exhausting, not to mention considerably anxiety producing.

I’ve heard veteran writers say that writers write because they must. If there is anything else you are truly good at and enjoy, you should do that instead because writing as a career is punishing work and not for the faint of heart. I sense that I will come to agree with this sentiment. So why would I voluntarily choose this as my vocation? (Well, technically it is still an avocation, as my current day job is Mama, but work with me here.) Ever since a lightning-strike moment of awareness during my junior year of high school- while sitting on my bed in my floral wallpapered room, writing a college essay I did not want to write, yet enjoying the tortured process in spite of myself- writing is all I have ever really wanted to do. There is no small amount of regret at knowing that my instinct some 16 or 17 years ago was spot on and that if I had been brave enough to listen to it, I could have been “honing my craft” all along. But I suppose life is a winding road and “everything happens for a reason” and all that…

Anyway, I ended up at a small liberal arts college having won a full scholarship, which I consider to this day to have been a fluke, and majored in  journalism because they had a nice program and it seemed vastly more practical than a major in creative writing. Publicly announcing that I planned to be a Writer must have seemed to me at the time like saying now that I’d like to win American Idol, so I kept quiet and memorized my AP style book, practiced writing powerful leads and did a thrilling stint as copy editor of the school paper. But it turned out I did not want to report news. Not at all. So I switched to a PR/Business track (still within the School of Journalism) and really enjoyed the creative side of things but was also keenly aware of not wanting to be swallowed up by the soulless corporate world of consumer coercion. And further and further from writing my focus wandered. Looking back, it is clear I was floundering, but I wasn’t too worried at the time and figured I had years to find my true calling.

Having always been a solid “A” student and involved in many different activities, I had become accustomed to a certain amount of praise and really enjoyed meeting other people’s expectations for me. (Ack! says my current self, but I digress…another post perhaps.)  The life of a struggling writer just didn’t appeal; a solid salary and benefits and the traditional material trappings of adult life certainly did. So after college, I married and continued on the most practical “path of least resistance”, occupationally speaking. I took jobs that involved design and marketing, teaching and training, and managing. I did well at them, mostly because organization and bossing people around have always come naturally to me.  But I always felt unmoored, out-of-place, unfulfilled and more than a little stressed out in those positions. I knew in the back of my mind that writing was what I wanted to be doing, but making a career of it was a pipe dream and one I could not afford to follow. And it turns out that participating in the 8-5 workaday world for over a decade did provide invaluable exposure to myriad personality types, organizational dramas and interpersonal conflicts that inform the way I see the world, so it was certainly not wasted time.

Enter a life-altering surprise twin birth with a side of disability, creating a sudden and dramatic shift of priorities three years ago, I am now living the dream. Well, maybe not the exact dream, but close enough. I have a small window of opportunity right now to give writing a true shot. And it should only get easier when all three kids are in school in a few years. But I hope to not have to wait that long to have one or two finished works under my belt. Needless to say, every post here will not be a gem. There will be some real stinkers. This might even be one of them. (I’ll know for sure when I read it again later.) But practice makes “perfect” and so persevere I must…

2 responses to Why I write

  1. Miranda

    Thanks, Elisabeth. I came across your blog through your comments at The Happiest Mom.

    I feel like I’m on a similar path as you. I did my education in Marketing, and for the past few years have (half heartedly) tried to work in the field. I did fashion marketing for a bit, but now I’m back in retail. Sometimes I get these moments of inspiration that I want to write write write, but I figure, maybe it’s just a passing phase, or that it’s been too long since I’ve written in my journal.

    I feel the same way – as a cobbler of words. Writing is the one thing I feel like I can come home to, time after time. After breakups, realizations, wake up calls, anything of the sort, I pick up my pen, Mokeskine, and everything’s okay.

    Maybe writing/blogging for fun would be enough? I honestly can’t see myself as a journalist or publicist. I wouldn’t mind writing for travel/shopping guides though. Thanks again, for writing a piece that was so heartfelt.

    • eiribe Post Author

      Miranda-
      Thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts with me. I wish you well as you continue to write and work retail and craft the next phase of your life, whatever it might be!

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