Why Do I Write?
I wrote this essay years ago. I reposted it because just lately, twice that I was asked by two colleagues in two separate occasions the following question – “Why do you keep writing?” I had this essay in my mind when I was asked that question but it would take long to explain to them all the points I made here. So, I just gave simple answers. “I ought to,” was the first and the second, – “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”
Let me now answer that question comprehensively.
Why do I write?
Why do I keep writing?
Is it to impress?
I don’t write to impress. I’m well aware of the fact that my writing skill is nowhere near excellent. I am not even halfway my journey to excellence in writing. I am not sure if I’ll get there before I breathe my last. I have a long long way to go. Perhaps I may need a dozen of lifetimes (or more) in order to surpass the accomplishments of William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Browning, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy and other literary giants.
So, why do I write then?
Do I write in the hope that I earn money and become famous?
Fame and money are not my primary motivations for writing. Of course I need money. It’s hypocritical to say that I don’t like to have additional numbers to the farthest north of the first digit in my bank account. Being the sole breadwinner in my family and with the projects I intend to embark on, I need additional sources of income.
“There’s no money in writing.” That is a cliche but that’s the truth. Writing is not very financially rewarding. Unless you are a script writer of one of the popular TV networks or movie outfits in your own country or a novelist who belongs in the league of the likes of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and Stephen King.
Anyway, I had received extra cash for some of the stuffs I wrote. For example, the university where I am currently employed gave me cash incentives for the research works that got published in international journals. The university also paid me for the articles I contributed to the school’s publication in English. That’s about it. The amount I received is not that substantial that would push me to write more.
The rewards that writing gives, for me, are hard to quantify. Such rewards are transcendental. That’s not me trying to sound philosophical. That’s just the way I feel about it.
What about fame? What about the accolades? Are those the the things that inspire me to write?
As a matter of fact, when I write and allow people to read my works I am unnecessarily putting myself under the microscope. I am putting myself in the line of fire if among my readers there are unforgiving members of the grammar police who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot on sight anyone whose spoken and written English are perforated with errors in grammar. When they start firing you can not hide. My missing the comma between the words “firing” and “you” in the previous sentence is something they could not miss.
So, instead of accolades I may get negative comments. This is the reason, a friend said, that he would never write for any publication or post any of his writings on any of the social networking sites. He is afraid he may not be able to take negative comments. He added he fears committing errors in grammar. He considers it embarrassing to be corrected for such mistakes.
In my case, criticisms and corrections are welcome. I won’t die if criticized and corrected. As a matter of fact, I have already received a lot of those and here I am – still alive and kicking. I don’t mind if somebody calls my attention for mistakes I committed. Just break it to me gently.
The reason erasers were invented and keyboards of computers have backspace and delete keys is… nobody’s perfect.
I keep rereading my stuffs in this website to improve my works and to correct possible errors.
People may read or disregard what I write. If they do read, a million thanks. If not – no hard feelings.
I may have received some good comments from my friends for some of my writings in the past. But of course, those comments may have been either meritorious or simply generous. Sometimes there are people who give positive and encouraging compliments.
But aside from good comments some of my works have also angered some individuals who were offended thinking that what I wrote pertained to them. Writing sometimes is a magnet for trouble. I remember quite well when I wrote a satirical poem in Filipino (about a wolf in sheep’s clothing) when I was working in a Catholic college. The parish priest who felt alluded to (and I was really alluding to him) reportedly asked the Sister-President of the college, my superior, to summon me to the latter’s office so he could talk to me about what I wrote. However he was dissuaded from pursuing his request. But even if he was able to convince the President and the College Dean then, I wouldn’t see him. Why? That poem I wrote and my act of writing it had nothing to do with my employment. My being a writer has no personality and office that could be connected to any of the lines that run vertical and horizontal in our organizational chart. In short, the priest had no authority over me. The priest never bugged me again but I wrote another poem for him (Habit and Habit).
My quatrains (in Filipino) are the ones that brought me some colorful moments. I have lost a friend or two (or is it three… perhaps more) for the quatrains I have posted in a social networking site. I once wrote a quatrain and a friend liked it. Almost a year later, I re-posted the same quatrain and surprisingly the same person who previously liked it was angered and gave me a mouthful. We’re very good friends so we talked about it. He understood, apologized, and we both forgot about it since then.
Also, my writings where my political beliefs are in full display had me losing very dear friends.
So, why do I write then?
Is it for the “likes,” “reactions,” and compliments I get when I have those poems, stories, and essays posted in my social networking accounts or in this website?
Of course those things make me happy and I am so thankful for those friends who take time to read my works then reacted and commented on them.
Then, why? Why do I write?
It’s hard to explain. It’s something like a combination of the answers to the following questions: Why do people need to eat when they are hungry? Why do they need to drink when they are thirsty? Why do they need to take medicine when they are sick? Why do they laugh? Why do they cry?
There is a kind of hunger within me that only writing can satisfy. There’s an insatiable thirst in my soul that would go away only when I read what I write. I suffer from a very mysterious illness that goes away only when I write in sentences or verses the equivalent words of the thoughts and feelings that drown me during quiet moments in my life.
Writing is my endorphin.
I must release my pain, anger and disagreement by writing about them or else they will haunt me endlessly. When I feel wronged I have to respond, not by violent means. I respond in a creative manner – through poems – sometimes satirical. I do it usually using anthropomorphism.
If the spirits of William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Browning I could not summon through the glass to inspire me to express in poetry whatever I wish to say then I turn to Francis Bacon and Michel de Montaigne’s way of capturing into words – essays – whatever it is that I wish to convey. if I don’t wish to be so direct with my points and would like to hide my feelings and thoughts between lines and behind symbolism and have them scattered in a plot then I walked the path that Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassan paved. I write stories.
I just don’t keep quiet when I notice human follies, especially if displayed by my friends and co-workers. Again I resort to anthropomorphism. I use animals to represent their irrationality. It may hurt them and make them angry but the truth may be bitter but sweeter than the sweetest lie. VERO NIHIL VERIUS. Nothing is truer than the truth.
This is not saying that I am a perfect human being. I am as imperfect as anyone else and may have, perhaps, done more terrible things. Thus, the satires I wrote are like boomerangs. They hit me also.
Pain is like a prison cell. It is by writing that I break free from that hell. As my heart churns out the words, I go through the pain, feel it, not escape from it. And as I write the final sentence or verse, as I put the final punctuation mark, the pain vanishes.
Even my happiness and satisfaction wouldn’t be complete if I do not write about them. I need to capture in either prose or poetry those moments so I can feel more deeply the joy they bring. I do write about them so I can relive those moments any time I wish to.
I need neither material rewards nor accolades for what I have written (and will be writing.) The poems, essays and stories I create are themselves the rewards. I love and treasure them.
I write not to impress but rather to express my thoughts, feelings and ideals. Writing is my freedom, my happiness.
SCRIBO, ERGO SUM. I write, therefore I am.