Didion writes in the last sentence of her piece, “Why I Write,” “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never had needed to write a novel” (1). Although I am not a novelist, I do consider myself to be a writer—a very passionate writer. Writing is therapeutic to me. When I think of writing, I can imagine a key unlocking a cage of untapped ideas and realizations. Therefore, I use writing to explore these ideas, shape thoughts that I have, and vent a little. I can truly relate to this quote because I completely understand what Didion is saying. It’s almost like saying: If we knew the answer to the problem, there would be no problem. I use writing to try to understand and organize my mind, and ultimately solve problems. I find that when I keep things inside my head, I just constantly think and overanalyze. When these ideas are on a piece of paper, I free myself from the prison of my mind. Every time I write something, I feel as though I’m letting out a big sigh of relief (but that may be in part because I have a bad memory, so I’m impressed that I remembered to write the thought down).
I resonate with Didion’s piece the most because she recounts her experience becoming a writer. She explores questions she had starting out as a writer and reflects on her early stages of writing. She uses personal examples, imagery, and details that allow the piece to come alive. For me, the piece seems honest and real. I want to be real and honest with my readers, truly allowing them to share my exploration with me. Her honesty is portrayed when she writes, “By which I mean not a ‘good’ writer or a ‘bad’ writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on a piece of a paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer?” (1). I love this line. Here you have an acclaimed and prestigious author speaking so truthfully about her life. She continues her piece by saying she uses writing to explore her thoughts and fears—something very honest and tangible.
My English teacher last semester often said, “the most personal, the more universal.” At first I always thought: What the hell does that mean? But Didion does a good job of letting the reader into her mind by writing honestly and straight to the point. It’s like I’m in her head—or better, in her personal journal.
Here I am thinking about my future as a writer. I can’t help but worry: Where will writing get me? How will I sustain a living? Is this even possible? And Didion helps to guide that answer. She maps out how she started as a writer and conveys what I think is the most important aspect of writing: gaining access to your mind—a powerful, yet incredibly difficult thing to tap into.
Although I have turned to Didion for her honesty and truthfulness to help consider reasons why I write, I also resonate with Terry Tempest Williams’ “Why I Write.” I had to read this piece in my English 125 class my Freshman year. It clearly made an impact, as I still think about it two and a half years later. Check it out!