“What is it about writing that makes you want to do it?” The old office chair creaked as Dr. Raymond leaned back. It was the first day of my first creative writing class. I didn’t dare look away because that would have begged him to call on me, so I did everything possible to avoid his oversized glasses as they tracked across the room.
The reality at that time was that I didn’t have an answer, except it checked off a box in a college catalog. It likely worked best with my attempt to sleep in until at least 10:00 a.m. every day. I was a college sophomore, fresh from switching my major for the fourth and final time. I officially branded myself as an English major, although I didn’t know what the hell I would do with it.
I did know what I didn’t want to do; I didn’t want to work in an office. I had spent summers and school breaks helping my sister at a law firm, where I earned a repurposed Burger King crown that dubbed me “The Copy Queen.” I cringed when the phone rang, and everyone else was tied up because it meant I had to answer it. And I usually couldn’t understand what the person said on the other end, which made for some interesting messages. [“Some guy who sounds like he has a stick up his butt is on the phone.”]
So, knowing this, can you guess what I did for the first fifteen years post-college? I worked in offices. Because as I discovered, the very thing you swear you won’t do is the thing you have experience doing and gets you a job the fastest.
My first paid writing job didn’t come until after I turned 40, when I started writing SEO content. It was cool to get paid to put together blogs and articles for other people, but it wasn’t the stuff I wanted to write. It didn’t allow me to use my voice or wild imagination. The kind of writing that moved me was the stuff I spent very little time doing as an adult.
Here’s the crazy part – I had been doing it my entire life. I loved making up stories where none existed. It was a way I entertained myself throughout life. It was the stuff that came in whispers through my brain while on vacation or in the middle of a work meeting. I’d hear or see something that made me think, “What if” or “I wonder what would happen” or “Wouldn’t that make a cool story?” Even though I listened sometimes, I didn’t pay them too much attention.
I think it took me so long to listen to those whispers because I needed time to get braver. My imagination is a powerful force that I thought was best left inside the confines of my skull because other people may not understand. I think I needed the time to grow up and into this notion that these voices may entertain other people, too.
And I suppose that’s where this comes full circle. After 25 years of muddling through, I can finally answer Dr. Raymond’s question, “What is it about writing that makes you want to do it?”
I write because I can.
I write because I should.
I write because I need to.
I write because it terrifies me.
I write because it invigorates me.
I write because it makes me feel safe.
I write because it makes me feel vulnerable.
I write because it’s like air filling my lungs.
I write because I have stories to tell in a way only I can.
I write because I want to make my family proud.
I write because I want to make myself proud.