Came across this today, written in 2004. It was inspired by a short essay by Terry Tempest Williams, collected in Writing Creative Nonfiction (ed. Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard). It still feels pretty true to me right now.
I write out of necessity, out of desperation. I write because there is no other viable alternative. I write because there is a hole in my heart even though the hole in my daughter’s was repaired years ago. I write because my son has heard me screaming and has started screaming at me. I write because my husband is sad a lot of the time, and it makes me sad, and it makes him less able to help me when I’m sad, and vice versa. I write because there are things I never got to do as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult in her twenties. I write because I always pictured myself in the turret study of a Victorian mansion, typing or scribbling away, sending page after page off into the world, wearing glasses and being a Famous Author. I write because when I was five I thought I would be an artist but I can’t draw to save my life. I write because my dream was always to be an actress, like Julie Andrews. I write because my singing voice is subpar, because my violin is dusty and my calluses gone, because I have given up on music, because there is something to say and I get tired of hearing it in my own head, and sometimes there is just no one else who will listen.
I write because I am good at grammar, because I was the Spelling Bee Champion of my school in both seventh and eighth grades, because English was always my favorite subject. I write because I am obsessed with words, and with books, and because reading is a way for me to get lost and get out of this rattling cage of a mind-body when I feel stuck. I write to thank my favorite authors, the patron saints looking down upon me from literary heaven, and to bless the muse, who may or may not exist in any real sense, but who gives us something to believe in other than the blank page, the pale screen wavering on the monitor, the too-crisp notebook with uncreased spine.
I write to take up space, to say I AM HERE, or later perhaps, I WAS HERE. I write for my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my children’s children. I write because I have living blood relatives to whom I have not spoken in nearly a decade. I write because the little brothers and sisters I diapered and bounced on my knee now are bouncing their own children on their own knees, and they all live so far away. I write because my parents, my siblings, and even my closest brother have all been taken by a belief I cannot relax into, though I have tried several times because it seems to explain things in a way that satisfies them. I write to understand the way I understand the universe, to distinguish this way from all the other ways.
I write because it hurts. I write because it takes the pain away. I write to stir things up. I write to quiet down. I write to stimulate, even to anger. I write to placate, to ameliorate (that word so close to my own name), to make people like me or at least not be angry with me anymore. I write because I can’t help myself, because it is what I do, because I can’t imagine living any other way.
I write for me, I write for you. I write by hand, I write on a machine and print it out on another machine. I write in the morning, at lunchtime, late at night. I write in the kitchen, in a café, on the subway, in the dentist’s waiting room. I write in summer, fall, winter, and spring. I write in the bright sun, in the rain and snow, in the cold, on the elevated train platform with my gloves on, the ink freezing in the pen. I write because I have no choice, because I have to, because I can’t think of anything else to do, because I can.