Why do we write?
I once heard someone say that everyone has one story that they’re meant to tell. One story that is theirs, and theirs alone. It may be a culmination of all the other tales they’ve been told or a summary of their experiences mediated through the voice of a narrator, but it is something utterly and completely theirs. As a writer, this idea has always lingered in the back of my mind, and I am reminded of it every now and again when I read a particularly impactful book or article.
We write because we seek understanding.
Someone close to me once said that we write because we want to be understood. We want to know that someone, somewhere out there in the world, has felt and thought the same things as us. It validates our existence by sharing who we are and how we think with other people.
But if that’s the case, why is it so daunting to share your writing with other people? If we seek understanding, why do we hold ourselves back from the very experience that could impart it to us? Many of my fellow writers (myself included) have, at some point, experienced the bone-deep fear that comes with the prospect of sharing your writing. Exposing your innermost self.
Writing is inherently intimate and personal, regardless of whether your characters and their situations are reflective of your own. When we write, we infuse our work with a piece of our soul that lives on in the text, even after we are gone. It is this same magic that remains centuries later when we pick up a book by some ancient, long-dead playwright or poet. Their writing lives on, and so too do their souls.
Some of us need to write.
Some of us feel called to write. It’s not merely a coping mechanism or a creative outlet, but a constant, smoldering flame that is fanned only by the outpouring of words. We are the wordsmiths, the people for whom life imitates art every bit as much as art imitates life. We may write fantasy, where ancient slumbering serpents serve as allegories for modern obstacles. Or maybe we write historical fiction, languishing in the knowledge that the struggles of those who lived centuries ago are still relevant today. Whatever the genre, whatever the reason, our souls are the same in that we have the overpowering urge to create, to shape, to sharpen. It is a beautiful form of transience when thoughts become words which then become lyrical lines.
As for me, I think I write out of fear. Fear of dying without leaving some remembrance of me behind, however small. Fear that someone else will write my story first. I don’t want to be a latecomer to the tale my soul longs to tell. But it’s more than that–at my core, I am a writer. And, like many writers, I share that same soul-deep ache that comes from being an artist and feeling (at times) alone in my thoughts. But if through sharing my stories, I am able to reach just one person who can read my writing and feel it resonate with them, then I am content having done that. For we write to be understood, and to extend understanding to others so that we may all feel some semblance of unity in this wide, mad world.
Featured Image via Amy Velazquez on Unsplash