Saturday, May 14, 2011

For the 6,500,656, 493th time: I Write Because...

 Ron made this for me years ago. I like the POKEWEED PRINCESS part of it most!
Sometimes it's an interview, usually with an undergraduate or high school student writing a paper. Sometimes it is just a conversation that I have fallen into with someone who knows I write.

Why do you write?

This is when I take a deep sigh. Not just because this is the worse question that you can ask a writer but because I really don't know the answer. Oh I'll come up with an answer but the secret is that I don't know. I'll look toward the sky or ceiling put my serious writer face on and say something borrowed, something cliche, something corny like:

because I can't do anything else...

If I could I wouldn't write but I have to. (this is when I ball my fist up and look my most fierce emphasis on the HAVE. Writers are so dramatic).

because I can't sing... (classic corny that I am sure I heard someone else say. this one gets a laugh especially if the other person involved is at least as corny as I am)

because writing is like a meditation for me, a prayer... (beautiful and sometimes true but...)

because there are so many stories inside my head and I need to get them out (This usually gets me the side eye or at least a wrinkled forehead while the person asking tries to decide whether they should just nod their head in agreement or get me some help.)

because when I was in my Mama's womb (watch out I'm going to take you through my entire childhood--an only child living on my grandparents farm wandering the woods...true but super sappy...Google if you want to be tortured by more of this. I've said it many times.)

I come from a family of artists...(this one too will lead you down a winding path of childhood, the first book I wrote at 12..yada, yada)

Writing is like breathing...(this is's in my blood, my muscle, my bone but saying it aloud makes it sound disingenuous)

to right the wrongs of the world (no not me. My stories are just my stories. I process those things that haunt me, things that haunt my characters and hope in turn that they touch something familiar in a reader. There's no agenda for the world in my writing. I'm not wired that way.)

so that my people are remembered (this is true but there's more that I just can't get at here)

for my grandparents and all of my ancestors (yes but...)

Sometimes I will depend on the novelist Edward P. Jones or some other writer who I admire to say what I can not:

Edward P. Jones says:

There are those who write because they believe they have something so marvelous that it will make them famous and wealthy, a lauded commodity who will be invited to a lifetime of cocktail parties. But there are those, like that radio woman's father, who write because of some bizarre and ancient compulsion. I think that I am one of those.

I love his quote sometimes I carry it around for just this purpose and pull it out like a weapon when I need it. (This one is always good for the contemplative head nodding and I do love the quote so much

There is another list of things I pull out to try and explain myself from the angle of a sort of negative space:

I don't write just to be published.(There are many things that I've written poems, stories, novel starts, complete novels that may never see the light of day but I was compelled to write them).

I don't write to try and become famous.

I don't write for money. (Though I'd like to have a bunch of it.)

Writing is solitary if not lonely at times. It's thankless (at least mostly). It's hard (harder than the other things that may come to me more easily)

So why do I do it?

Of course this is when there is this expectation of something...something that will make your head nod in agreement or your jaw drop...some secret kept by writers for a million years that's never been revealed. Maybe I should say something beautiful or something smart or something poignant or...or...or.

For all the reasons listed above? For none of them? For some other reason that I can't quite get at?  I've answered the question many times in many ways.

Why do you write?

I don't know why I write. I just do. And I just will. And I always will.


  1. Thank you for what I will ever regard as Crystal clarity. I gathered all your reasons and examined my own. Many of them match, and that makes me feel like, 'yeah, that's so IT!' I appreciate your candor, your openness, and most of all, your obvious passion. Writing to/for your is MORE than "like' breathing. (this is what hits me as I read you, EVERY time I read you)When your words hit the page, Crystal, it is your breath made visible! I lie to you not!

    And then you sum it up in this piece with the only bottom line possible..."I don't know why I write. I just do. And I just will. And I always will." (as you live and breathe!) May you live LONG!

  2. Great post! I know exactly what you mean and I appreciate your transparency.


  3. I love these answers. I'd like to say I write because I can.

  4. Awesome! I like to tell people I write to shut up the voices in my head who demand I tell their stories. The expression on people's face when I say that is priceless. Then I smile that sweet Southern smile and say "No, sweetie, I'm not crazy. At least not very." Then give a little head tilt. Sometimes I finish off with "If I didn't write, who knows..."

  5. Great answers. In my case, I'm hard to live with if I'm not writing.