Why Do We Write?

It’s nearing the end of a full year of working at the Writing Success Program. Before, I felt too undeveloped as a writer to seriously discuss my writing and thoughts on writing. I hadn’t written an English paper in over a year. In all honesty, I used to feel like an impostor: “Ah, yes, of course I’m a writer, why do you ask? No, I haven’t written anything good in a while, but I swear I can write.” But now, with two and 3/4 quarters of writing counseling and writing blog posts for WSP under my belt, I at least feel willing, if not completely qualified, to pose a serious question about writing: Why do we write?

Oftentimes, I find that my answers are materialistic and tied to requirements and responsibilities: “I have an assignment,” or “I’m doing this for my paycheck.” But what about spontaneous writing that I won’t turn in? Why do I write if I’m not required to do so? On a deeper level, there is more to why I write than simply because I have to. Looking at a recent piece of writing I did to fulfill my own desires might help answer this question.

———————

A few weeks ago, my friend and I got up at our usual 8:30 AM on Saturday to play tennis at the Sunset Recreational Tennis Courts. This time, one of my floor-mates was joining us, and my friend and I were bouncing with joy because our little tennis party of two had never before been so big.

We were about fifteen minutes in when the incident happened. A middle-aged man (some self-proclaimed coach) strolled across our court to go to the opposite court where two tennis players were already getting ready to play. This “coach” ungraciously proceeded to tell the two players to move, because he was having a lesson, his students had apparently “got here first,” and the two tennis players hadn’t reserved the court.

What followed was a one-sided 10-minute volley – of screams, temper tantrums, and disturbing yowls. The “tennis coach” acted like an antsy two-year-old with the vocabulary of a middle school bully learning swear words for the first time. Meanwhile, the two students (a couple in their thirties) taking lessons from the guy shrugged and mouthed apologies at us, which I took to mean that they felt some pang of guilt or shame for their immature tennis coach. I was wrong. They were actually apologizing “on behalf of the other players for not listening to their coach and causing trouble” in the way a pet owner apologizes for their dog being too loud. It was disgusting.

But what I was disgusted by the most was my inaction. Why didn’t I stand up for the poor tennis players who simply happened to be targeted by irresponsible pricks? Why didn’t I step in to say that I saw the two tennis players at the court first? Why couldn’t I fight my fear of being involved? These questions buzzed around my head in little “what ifs” that wouldn’t let me go.

———————

Why did I write this? I certainly was not paid to do so. Instead, it came from an internal wish: to appease my self-torment and to reflect on my actions and emotions.

While a desire to address my internal conflicts seems to answer why I wrote this particular piece, I still don’t feel satisfied by this to answer why I write.

——————–

When I first started writing in kindergarten, I wrote because it was fun. I liked reading, but I wanted to create my own stories – and be praised by my teachers. I was a huge teacher’s pet as a child.

Throughout elementary school, I wrote because it was one of the few forms of entertainment I had full access to. I was bad at video games, and being physically weak, I fell behind my teammates in sports. I felt comfortable with writing because I was somewhat decent at it, at least for my age group.

As I got older, I wrote because I didn’t have many friends, and too many thoughts. I had to express them to someone, even if that someone was bound sheets of lined paper that only I ever read.

Later, I wrote because I wanted to get back in touch with my self, my identity, who I was, who I still could be.

In late high school and early college, I wrote because I wanted to write novels. I had a dream, and I was inspired by witty, prosaic authors whose books I read obsessively, looking up annotations and Google-searching all the references. I wrote to emulate my role models, to become like the people I admired most.

Now, in my second year of college, I still wonder why I write…

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