Why do I write?

I often ask myself, “What on earth possessed me to be a writer? Besides being a total masochist.”

Writing can be enormously frustrating, especially when my drive to create gets paired with the attention span of a toddler some days. In fact, to be perfectly honest, sometimes I really HATE writing. 

I often promise myself I will start writing in earnest at some future date – New Year’s Day, my birthday, as soon as I get through whatever crisis hijacks my energy at the moment. Beginning on that date, I will devote at least one hour each day to writing, no matter what.

Alas, I have a gazillion excuses for not putting pen to paper. I need to clean house. Pay bills. Get groceries. Cook supper. Check Facebook to see what’s going on with my friends and relatives. When my resolve to start writing in earnest fails to translate into action, I’m tempted to give up and say, “Oh well, what’s the use?” Curses! Foiled again!

But if writing is such a royal pain, why do I write?

Writing is my “voice.” When I was a child – actually, well into my teen years – making two-way conversation was a supreme challenge. I could write well before I could speak well. Even today, writing comes more easily to me than speaking when I need to share important thoughts or strong feelings. I can express myself without yelling, and without someone interrupting me and making me lose my train of thought.

I have things I want to say. I want to do my part to change the world by writing on behalf of a favorite cause. I have ideas I want to contribute to the public conversation. I want others to know what it’s like to be me or why I think the way I do.

Writing has been somewhat lucrative. From young adulthood on, my writing ability has assured me I would never starve. During my career as a journalist, then as a public relations consultant and finally as a human services provider, lots of people knew I could write a coherent sentence better than the average person and wanted me to help them get their own ideas/messages on paper. Or help their organizations get donors. Even more enticingly, people offered to pay me real money for this assistance.

Writing beat other professions I could have chosen. As hard as writing could be at times, journalism – or even preparing grant proposals – sure beat waiting tables or flipping burgers for a living. Courses in mathematical information systems or data analytics would have bored me silly, even if they led to one of those “hot” tech careers. And I sure as heck was not a public speaker or numbers cruncher.

Writing helps me develop a filter. Instead of allowing my mouth to run faster than my brain, I can look over each word or sentence and ask myself, “How is this going to sound to others?” Is this what I really want to say? Can it be misinterpreted? Is there a way to get my point across more clearly? Or nicely?

Writing serves as a safety valve. When I find myself walking around with random anxieties, fears and resentments competing for rent-free space in my head, putting it all down on paper helps me let go of some of that anger, anxiety and frustration. 

I love having actually written something. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finally put pen to paper and come up with something well-reasoned and rational, then polish it like a brilliant little gem. I’m still thrilled to see my by-line in a magazine or newspaper, and it would be even more of a thrill to see my name on a book.

Writing can serve as a form of prayer. Writing helps me focus my thoughts in an organized way, even when I’m communicating with God. I feel much more “centered” after journaling during my morning meditation. Keeping a journal also encourages me to record the fruits of prayer, which in turn reminds me that God does answer prayer from time to time. 

My writing ability is a gift from God. I’ve known since third grade that writing would play some role in my life’s purpose, whatever that turned out to be. I’ve known this is a talent I must not waste. I want to make good use of my gifts, rather than hiding my light under a bushel. 

Since I have all these marvelous reasons to write, what keeps me from doing so in a more disciplined fashion? What gets in my way? What makes writing such a pain?

One problem is, I frequently have so many ideas floating around in my mind I don’t know where to start. Then I end up staring into space and writing nothing. When I do manage to commit something to paper, I tend to flit from one subject to another, so I have piles and piles of random notes written on yellow or white legal pads. Most of these end up buried under a mound of other papers in my office, or in one of the 68 boxes in the basement marked “miscellaneous.” 

I suspect another problem as well. “Is it because I’m afraid?” I ask myself. “What am I afraid of?” That I won’t get answers to the questions I’m asking? That someone will disagree with what I write? That I’ll end up looking foolish or awful in print? That people will reject not only my writing, but me as well? 

So how do I get past these barriers and motivate myself to write? 

In the end, I know it all boils down to self-discipline. Feet to the fire. Derriere in the chair. Just do it. Write already! 

And another thought: What if I never get around to writing? Someday I’ll die without ever having said what I really wanted to say. Lately that’s been reason enough to overcome writer’s block.

Wait a minute … the cat’s litter box really needs cleaning, doesn’t it?