Recently I read a post by Jeff Goins called Why I Write. And I strongly connected with all of the reasons that he writes. I read some of the comments and people got kind of cliche with their answers, but a cliche isn’t necessarily untrue. And it got me wondering the same thing: Why do I write? So I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it, and I realized that I am not entirely sure. I just do. I always have.
When I was about 13, I remember sitting in front of my computer in our “homeschool room” for hours and hours, and the only thing open was a word processor. I don’t think Facebook existed yet, and I didn’t have a MySpace or anything. AOL Instant Messenger was the newest, coolest thing for people my age to be doing, but I didn’t use mine. I just wrote. I would sit and write story after story after story, sometimes upwards of 20 pages apiece. I knew nothing of the editing and revising process, I didn’t want other people to read my stories, I just wrote them because I wanted to and I could. My earliest stories were mostly about centaurs, one of my favorite fantasy creatures, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle-Earth and Piers Anthony’s world of Xanth (a mathematical world full of puns, that I’d recommend people pick up at used book stores). I wanted to create something that was so real I could almost touch it. And in my mind, I could touch everything I created. It was real, if only to me. (But isn’t that what writing is all about?)
I also used to draw, constantly. My drawing and my writing were inextricably intertwined. I would go out into the desert behind our house and map out every trail, every dry wash, and even some of the “important” landmarks, like a tree that in my imagination was actually a sleeping Ent. I got to a point where I even had all of the streets of my entire neighborhood mapped, and I knew my way around on foot or on horseback better than anyone else. I then incorporated these maps into my stories (again, inspired by my copies of The Lord of the Rings, and the maps that I’d found of M.E. in the appendices). I’d ride my horse all over the place, sometimes on 5+ hour rides down the wash to the state park in Catalina, and in my mind I was on a quest, I was the hero. But unlike (or perhaps not so unlike) the heroes in stories, I didn’t know what my quest was for, it just was. It simply existed.
And that’s how my writing has been for my entire life. I’m on a quest, and I don’t really know what for. But writing helps me figure out what that is. Am I like Colin Singleton, trying to matter and being an incredibly self-centered person in the process? Or am I Frodo Baggins, who volunteered for his adventure but didn’t know quite how harrowing and difficult it would be until he had gone too far to turn back? I don’t know.
I mostly wrote fiction until I was a little older, and then my first attempt at nonfiction was a little later. And it was only one story, about one page. Flash nonfiction. It was called “@ 11:59pm.” (Yes, with the @ symbol and everything.) I had been sitting up late at night, watching the moon rise over the mountains and looking at how blue everything looked under it’s light, and how quiet everything was. It was peaceful. My favorite time of day. I could sit by myself, listen to some music quietly, and look out my window wrapped in a blanket. I saw monsoon clouds, and the moon, and I may have embellished some details, but I decided to write. Because I wanted to and I could. And for the first time, I wrote directly about myself. It was the first time that I realized you could do that. All writing doesn’t have to be made up. You can write about you. And just you, and your life, and how confusing and wonderful and hard it is.
And that’s it.
I started writing in a journal when I was 14 or 15. And that was the beginning of my writing to figure things out. It helped me to put deeper meaning and layers into my fiction, because I began to understand, through writing it out, that life has many layers of meaning, and everything is not all good or all bad. Everything is not black and white. There are no clear-cut answers. Even once my faith in God began developing, I realized that even knowing Him, He does not give all answers. He has all answers, but Jesus is not a magic formula that makes life make sense. He is a God Man who goes through life with us, and makes life worth it. And just makes life. He is the ultimate author, and nobody can fully comprehend all of the layers in His story, except Him.
I think that writing is a reflection of the image of God within all of us. He is the Creator, so His creations desire to create. He is the Author of Life, so we strive to be authors of imaginary lives. He is the Redeemer, so we seek to redeem our characters. We play God by writing. But if you recognize that your desire to write is from Him, you can use it for Him. And it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as the ultimate goal is glorification of Him. You don’t have to write Christian self-help books to be a Christian author. Just be a Christian, and be an author. Tolkien and Lewis never directly mention God or Jesus or their religion in their books, yet we find threads of Christian theology throughout.
So, I think that deep down I understand why I write. But the best way I know how to explain it is by writing. Which can become very circular, if I keep going.