Why I write

If I wrote to make money, I would be badly disappointed. The tax documents that I am preparing to file remind me that what I earned through writing last year was a tiny sum, nowhere near enough to support the year’s mortgage or groceries.

If I wrote to become famous, I would be badly disappointed. Some of my writing has been read by others and even quoted by others, but I have probably been noticed more for my public speaking than for anything I have written.

If I wrote to change the world, I would be badly disappointed. A few people have told me that they were helped by something I have written, but for the most part the world has gone its own way without paying any attention to the things I have written.

Why, then, do I write? Largely I write because I must write. I have thoughts that must be expressed. People sometimes ask authors, “Where do you get your ideas?” Ideas swirl around in my mind like flies in a stable. When I am showering, or when I am mowing, or when I am driving, my mind is composing sentences and paragraphs on various topics. For me, writer’s block is not a question of nothing to say; writer’s block for me is too many things to say, crowded together like too many people trying to get through a doorway at the same time.

I earned good grades in school. I scored highly on standardized tests. I could easily have been a scientist, a mathematician, a businessman, or an engineer. I would probably have earned far more money in any of those careers. But my primary fascination has always been language. I read about science, and I understand what I read and find it interesting, but I do not regret refusing to pursue a career in that field. I read about economics, and I understand what I read and find it interesting, but I do not regret failing to work in the world of business.

A few years ago, I was invited into a classroom to talk to seventh- and eighth-graders about writing. I encouraged the students to do three things. Read a lot: being exposed every day to samples of good writing will always improve one’s writing. Write a lot: even when one writes something that goes unread, the exercise sharpens skills. Rewrite a lot: no one but God gets it right the first time. Good writing can always be improved. At the end of the session, one of the students heading out the door asked, “Are you famous?” I smiled and said, “Not yet.”

I wouldn’t mind earning more money for my writing. I wouldn’t mind becoming famous for my writing. I wouldn’t mind making the world a better place by my writing. If none of those things happen, I still must write. It’s who I am; it’s what I do. If I did not write, I would not be who I am. J.

11 thoughts on “Why I write

  1. I don’t particularly care for the task of writing, yet I do a ton of it, mainly in the form of journaling. As Tom noted, it’s how I sort out my thoughts. I often make connections as I’m writing that don’t occur to me through simply reflecting or meditating.

    Language fascinates me too – the formation of it, the use (and misuse!) of it. It’s what distinguishes us from all other species – the ability to communicate abstractions with the sounds we make. And when you think about the Word, the Logos, and all the implications there – that the Incarnate Word comes to save us, and comes to us in the form of….the word – it’s kinda mind-bending.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I so understand what you mean about having too many thoughts to actually write them down. They bang around up in there, and nothing comes out. Then, suddenly an entire article will formulate itself in my mind. Then, I don’t have time to put it down and if falls out again. That is really frustrating.


  3. I always wanted to be a writer.
    Yet I taught Art Ed, was a wife and mom.
    Had I lingered longer in college I would have jumped ship from education to journalism–but it didn’t work that way…so when I retired…I opted to blog.
    I’d still like to write and maybe get paid every once in a while—but I’ll just enjoy the opportunity of sharing for right now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While we tend to have separate political views, I would ditto this entire post as it also applies to me (although I am not as graced with the ability to speak as much as I would like). Very nicely expressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I identify with you completely. We are also both “Chicagoans” and Cubs fans, so “there’s that” as one of my sons would say. I am glad you came by my site and left a comment for me to trace back to your site. Kindred spirits I think we are.

    Liked by 1 person

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