When I was a kid, I wrote the way most kids eat candy: compulsively, joyfully, and until some adult made me stop.
I wrote to fix ideas in my memory and to find out what I thought. I wrote to explore the world as it was and as it could be. I wrote because not writing just didn’t make sense.
In middle school, I finished my first novel. Even at the time, I knew that I didn’t have the skill to make it truly great.
But I’d written it and it was mine.
Writing My Way Through School
In high school, I stayed awake late into the night, scribbling in notebooks with a blue light bulb in my bedside lamp. I wrote fragments and journal entries and short stories. I even revised that old novel (but it still wasn’t good enough to see the light of day.)
My notes from college are interspersed with bits of poetry and fragments of whatever story I was working on. I started another novel, or maybe two (?). I honestly can’t even remember.
I viewed all those years of school mostly as an obstacle to get through until I could write (and read) whatever I wanted whenever I wanted without textbooks and research papers as distractions. Yet, I also had a pretty clear idea that writing wouldn’t pay the bills. My mom said “Study journalism.” I enrolled in a “new media” program instead.
That lasted exactly one semester. Guess what major I picked next.
My Writing Career Begins
As an adult, I made writing my job. A brief stint as an intern and then as a business news reporter expanded into a career as a freelance content writer. I drafted blogs, websites, press releases, news letters…Turns out, writing CAN pay the bills.
Eventually I published my first novel, completing my transformation from writer to author. I held a big book launch event. I talked to high school students and visited college creative writing classes. I scheduled book signings. Finally, I had achieved my childhood dreams.
My Dream Came True
But lately picking up the pen, or sitting down in front of the computer screen, has felt like a duty rather than a joy. Minutes or hours of scribbling are no longer a forbidden luxury, something done under the covers with a pen light. No. Writing is my job. It’s how I feed myself, and pay my mortgage, and keep the batteries in that pen light charged.
I have better access to, and more sophisticated, writing tools than ever before. Laptop, iPad, Google Docs, the notes app on my phone. I host a podcast about indie publishing. I have mugs that proclaim me to be a “future bestselling author” and sweatshirts that declare “I write what should not be forgotten.”
Remembering Why I Write
But I had forgotten.
I’d forgotten why I write. Not for bestseller lists or podcast fame. Not to be recognized by some award or to attract 12 million followers on Instagram. Not even, although I adore doing it, to stand up in front of college and high school students to proclaim, “I am a writer and so can you.”
I write to remember.
I write to understand.
I write to explore the world as it is.
And as it could be.
If my writing moves or inspires, enlightens or entertains, educates or elucidates. That’s lovely. But it’s not the point.
I write because I am a writer.
I’m writing this now so I won’t forget again.
I write because I am.