W.H. Auden said, “The aim of writing poetry is to enable readers a little better to enjoy life or a little better to endure it.” I think this is true not just for readers but also for us as writers. I know I write to see more clearly, to find compassion and investigate complexity, to make sense of and find hope and humor in an often difficult and messy world.
On Thursday, December 10th, I had the pleasure of speaking with some wonderful writers and illustrators at the holiday mixer for the SCBWI North/Central California regional group. In addition to talking about my own lens as a writer, I reached out before the event to some other writers (thank you, Facebook!) to see what they had to say about the spark that keeps them writing, so I could bring their voices into the mix.
Judging by their responses, Auden was on to something.
I’m including what they had to say below and would welcome any comments discussing why you write:
“I write because when I do so, a world opens up and everything takes on a strange and lovely shimmer. I do it for the shimmer.” – Tricia Sterling
“I write YA because I have all these kids who are teens and I hear them say these terrible things that make me laugh (or sometimes shout, because I’m mad) and then characters start coming out of those terrible things and all I want to do is write them.” – Geoff Herbach
“I write for the same reason I breathe. It’s what I need to do to feel alive. I started to write as soon as I could read with no one telling me to write because I had to create worlds on paper.” – Linda Joy Singleton
“I write because if I don’t, the world is a too-dark place for me. When you’re already struggling with depression, just watching the evening news can be enough to trigger a drop in mood. Writing allows me to create a pocket of happiness and safety (even if it’s first earned by defeating villains on the pages) for just a while – and hopefully allow a reader to share in it, too.” — Angelica R. Jackson
“There’s a French word, trouvaille, which means “something you find while working.” That’s my very favorite thing about writing — the things I find in my own imagination. It’s a treasure hunt every time I sit down to work. What’s more exciting than that?” – Gary Wright
“I write to remain hopeful.” – Gabrielle Carolina
“I write because moments are so beautiful or heartbreaking or fascinating that I need – feel compelled—to try to capture them, turn them over, examine them like cells under a microscope seeing where they might come from, and where they might go; I write to gain control of tragedies, of the pain of loss, wrangle death, and revel again in the giddy power of falling in love; I write to understand, to pull apart and put back together again; I write because words strung together in a skilled or beautiful way paint whole landscapes that don’t exist, create story where there was none.” –Gae Polisner
“I write because it is the only tool I have to explore what is inside of me. In writing it down, I make my experiences meaningful not only for myself, but for others as well.” –Amy Rutten
“I write because writing saves my life, each and every time. Writing opens a magic door for me, allowing me to see and speak the truth–my truth, which otherwise has a way of getting buried under everything else, all the scary things, the challenging things, just the everyday boring things that life serves up, without a break, except when we sleep–and I still haven’t learned to write while I’m sleeping. Writing brings me clarity, serenity and, when it goes well–or when what I’ve written touches someone else–an unparalleled sense of relief.” – Barbara Quick
“I write to integrate the outside and the inside, to find a vantage point that shows the processes at play in life, the processes which intertwine seemingly discrete things. Writing heals me gradually, heals the rifts in my perspectives. I think writing, any creative process, can heal despair and show that loneliness has depth.”– Alicia Frost
“When I write I never feel as if I’m wasting my time! I guess somehow it’s what I’m meant to do!” – Robin Wallace
“I write because whether I am writing them or reading them, books have helped me to feel less alone in the world. Now that I have students and my own children, I hope they discover friends in books as well.” – Eireann Corrigan
“I write because the fact that human beings can arrange inky black squiggles called letters into words, and then can arrange those words into sentences, and eventually essays or stories or books that can be read by another person, and more than read, but EXPERIENCED by them (making them cry, laugh, learn something, understand, swoon, get riled up, be afraid, etc.), even though the person who did the writing and the person doing the reading aren’t even in the same room (maybe not even in the same country or time period), is about the best magic in the universe.”– Terra Elan McVoy
“I write because if I didn’t, I feel as though all the pin-ball-weird-thoughts in my mind, that I can generally channel into my work, would just bounce off the insides of my brain and cause serious damage. I feel so lucky that I get to take all these passionate beliefs and mold them into stories where I can, selfishly, work out my own crap about what it means to be alive. I would go crazy otherwise.”– Tracy Holczer