Behind the Scenes, Why I Write Essay

It is a little funny to write about writing. I could create another post about writing about writing about writing, ad infinitum.

That aside, writing about why I write is difficult. It is hard to pin down the reasons why I write; some of them seem elusive. Other reasons seem strange to admit to anyone else, like for example, I enjoy flipping through my journal and seeing pages of handwriting. Other reasons I write seem unoriginal—to express myself, to communicate my ideas. (Or maybe its just a fact of the trade, there are certain features of it that are appealing, and those features hold true for many people). Writing creative non-fiction is difficult because there is a certain level of telling the world about yourself—which isn’t bad by any means, but the honesty of re-living an experience and the questions of, why does anyone care about what personal insight I gained from eating too much glue in preschool? Also, as I am thinking about why I like to write there is nagging Orwellian voice in my head whispering, because you think you’re really cool—that’s why. And I have to convince myself that I am not egotistical….right? (The battle has quite been won yet. I mean, have you read 1984, the man knew how to write, surely he knows what is up.)

I have considered the question before, why do I write? The answer is has often been simply and vaguely, because I like to—which begs the question, why do you enjoy writing? The hand cramps that occur after an hour and a half in-class essay aren’t particularly pleasant. And more than once, writing a philosophy paper has been agonizing. (Right now, I am experiencing it—writing blog posts also can be difficult.) There is something deeper than “writing is fun!” because often its not, but something drives me to continue doing it anyway.

The other thing I haven’t completely encountered yet, but anticipate difficulty in, is bringing all these different and perhaps unrelated notions about why I like to write into a cohesive and flowing essay.

My plans to tackle these fears include inciting myself to write with coffee and possibly a sugar cookie if things are looking really rough, (It always works. If you haven’t tried bribing yourself with food to do homework, I recommend it.) and work my way through this crappy first draft.

4 thoughts to “Behind the Scenes, Why I Write Essay”

  1. First off, I really liked your post. It’s that kind of like where you agree with everything the person says so the only things you really have to say are what the other person said rephrased. I’ll try to overcome this urge.

    The question “Why should anyone care”, I think applies to almost any piece of writing, though it is perhaps most intensely felt in creative nonfiction because the subject is you. There is no hiding behind “the reader should care because [insert subject here] is so important” like you can when writing about stem cells, Paradise Lost, or Project Runway. You have to prove what you’re saying is important. You have to prove that you and your experiences are important to a stranger. I’ve found thinking about writing like that makes it almost impossible. I’ve grown to believe, rightly or wrongly, that if it is a topic that interests me, I’m not that different from every other person on earth, in theory it should appeal to someone else as long as I make it about something that is universal rather than myself. Yet, this is probably just a thought-crutch. If I were forced to think about some strange audience thinking and judging me every time I wrote, I don’t think I’d be able to push anything out.

    To be honest, I don’t really know exactly what I like about writing either. When we talked about finding pleasure in writing, I said that the pleasure mostly comes from reading things after you’ve written and then enjoying your own brilliance. But I don’t think that’s entirely it. In fact, the more I think about writing the more I think it’s a kind of compulsion. I had a professor say that writing is an act of taking notice, of not letting your life and your thoughts pass you by. Sometimes, I think I write for the same reason people hoard. I won’t let anything go. But that doesn’t help with the almost physical struggle to come up with words and think up something clever worth saying. Frappuccinos do though, my equivalent to coffee and sugar cookies.

  2. I am having similar doubts about writing about why I write. I can’t help but feel arrogant and as though writers like Orwell would grimace at how we sit around on our expensive pieces of technology trying to figure out why we write the feeble (at least in my case) prose we do in our novice careers.
    Bringing up the mentally and physically demanding nightmare that is blue book exams was really effective. I’ve been getting all deep and emotional about why I write, but then you made me just realize: I hate writing! Convoluting your hand around your pen as you frantically and illegibly scribble the first remotely applicable words that come to your mind while you contemplate whether the GSI staring at you to turn in your exam is going to finally break the “extra minute or two” grace period of finals and make an example out of you for generations to come. Maybe that was a stretch, but “writing” as the dictionary defines it is something we don’t really do anymore and when we do do it it (whoa) really isn’t that great. You mentioned a journal; I really wish I would’ve kept one growing up. We can’t even remember what we did yesterday let alone 10 years ago, which were possibly some of the greatest times of our lives as children.
    What I think is great is that we are confronting these internal quarrels head on. I know we aren’t the only students who don’t like writing or doubt their abilities, and I feel like we are going to grow a lot relative to our counterparts in demonstrable ways to the real world.
    Nice “ad infinitum” by the way.

  3. Alicia,
    I can honestly say I really enjoyed reading this blog post. After reading this I have a couple of questions for you, why do you enjoy flipping your journal and seeing pages of handwriting? What does seeing your writing do for you internally? I think justifying those things would be great to put in your paper!

    I think your points about the difficulties of writing creative non-fiction were very interesting. I can’t really identify with the difficulties that you are having with expressing yourself about experiences you had earlier in your life though. I think reliving life experiences is essential for personal growth because how can one know where you are going if they don’t know where you’ve been? If you were back in preschool, would you eat the glue again? Why did you want to eat glue in preschool in the first place? How would you react today if someone close to you was in preschool and they had the pleasure (☺) of eating glue as you did about 15 years ago? These may seem like silly questions, but I genuinely CARE about the personal insight you gained from life experiences. How can you be who you are today without having that experience? I know re-living personal events can contribute significantly to what I want to know, because want to know about you. So I hope you decide to incorporate some personal events in your essay.

    I like the idea of the essay because it provides a unique, documentable platform for the people who WANT to know about you to learn about you. I am very curious person, and maybe that makes me weird, but I like to ask questions and learn as much as I can about people. I try to identify with as much as I can with people’s life experiences because I think the more people I get to know, the better person I can be. The goal is attain knowledge, because the more knowledgeable I am, the better person, and writer, I can be. Ultimately, I want to know about why you write because after reading and reflecting on your post, I’m confident that the nagging Orwellian voice in your head is correct, you are pretty cool. (I mean how can you NOT be cool and like sugar cookies?)

  4. Alicia, I totally second Ron’s first point in his comment–I thought the same thing! What a great, evocative image! (Maybe you could find a similar image to post in your entry?) Also, what about other sense-related things…I love the smell of ink on a page, for instance, and that popped into my head when you said you like to see pages full of handwriting. I also think Christopher has a great point to make about writing (the physical act) and technology…might be worth thinking about in your revision process? Your post, Alicia, was charming, funny, engaging, and clearly has generated awesome responses from all of your peer posters–nice work! And Julia, Christopher, and Ron–way to respond!

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