Why I Write
There are a hundred reasons why I write, but even if I were to detail all of those reasons, I still would not have fully explained why I am so passionate about it. I think what it truly comes down to is this idea of self-reflection, and how writing can increase my knowledge of a moment in time, an experience, a thought, future wants and desires, or even my greatest fears. No matter what genre, prose, or motivation for writing a certain piece, they all often accomplish this greater task of self-reflection and clarification, which is an absolutely beautiful thing. Writing is full of endless possibilities, and I write to make those possibilities a reality—to not only clear my own head, but also clarify the day-to-day interactions I have with the people and world around me.
One of the greatest things about writing is its ability to aid me in solving a personal dilemma. Writing allows you to weigh the pros and cons of any given situation, which can make a problem much more manageable. I’m likely the most indecisive person on the planet. When I was deciding which college to attend, I decided to visit CU Boulder the weekend before the decision needed to be made. Even after seeing the school, I was completely clueless where I wanted to go. I went back and forth between Boulder and Michigan the entire trip home, and it took me until 5 minutes before I needed to accept a school for me to decide on Michigan. What really helped me decide, I found, was writing down what I loved and hated about each school. Once I could look at solid reasons on paper instead of trying to manage the jumbled thoughts in my head, the entire decision seemed so much more manageable.
I also think this is particularly useful with relationships and trying to understand another person’s point of view. If I put myself in another person’s position and write from their perspective on an issue, I can then look back and see how that changes my own opinion on the matter. In relationships this can be something that helps tremendously. The truth is, no two people are alike, and we all think about things in different ways and are affected by things differently. If you really take the time to write down the problem and try to see it from another person’s perspective, sometimes it becomes less about the way you think about the issue and more about how the differences in two perspectives can work together to come to an agreement and mutual understanding of the other’s point of view.
Not only does writing help clarify personal questions and relationship issues, but it also can help me make sense of broader topics and arguments. Writing allows you to take the time to research and investigate a topic from various points of view. Once you have the information, it’s easier to compare them to each other and analyze it thoughtfully and clearly. In high school I was asked to write an argumentative essay on abortion, and at what point I believed life to begin. Writing allowed me to research the topic, write down my thoughts in a clear, educated manner, and compare my points with the counterargument to form a strong, supported opinion of my beliefs. If I were instead asked to research a topic and then argue it in a debate, that would be much more difficult for me. Writing truly allows me to be a confident debater in that it gives me time to form a coherent, honest, but also powerful and informed piece of literature. One can write draft after draft in order to come as close to perfection as humanly possible. There’s truly no greater feeling than composing an intellectual piece of argumentative literature about a topic that you know has made you more confident in your opinion.
Writing for self-reflection can also come as a great stress reliever. It’s a great feeling to get clarity on a problem or event that has happened, and that’s one of the most important reasons for why I write. Two years ago I wrote a personal narrative entitled “Count Down To Crash” in which I detailed my minute-by-minute account of a car crash I had been in the summer before my senior year of high school. The tone of the essay was something like this:
“My sister was starring into the rearview mirror with a look of pure terror on her face—we were about to get rear-ended by an SUV that clearly had no intensions of slowing down. Suddenly, every ounce of mass in my body went tight—my neck, my back, my arms, and my feet. Everything. I shut my eyes and prayed we would be okay, that we’d make it out of this car alive. Everybody says your life flashes before your eyes in a near death experience—for me it was just the opposite. I pictured my death. And right as I was picturing the car blowing up in flames, a staggering surge of driving force passed though me. My body wanted to fly through the car but could not; my seatbelt would not let me go. Glass shattering, metal being ripped apart, more brakes squealing; the sound was deafening. For as loud as it was when that SUV hit our car going fifty miles per hour, it was equally quiet when everything came to a stop. That was the scariest part—the silence. I looked over at my sister and what I saw was something that will haunt me forever. Her face was completely covered with blood. I truly thought my sister was going to die.”
Oddly enough, writing this piece was one of the most enjoyable things I can remember. Although that incident was one of the most tragic, frightful things I have ever experienced, it was oddly satisfying to reflect back on it and accept it for what it was. Writing it out truly allowed me to come to peace with what happened, and in a way it forced me to really think about what happened and why. People don’t always take the time to look back on events in their life, let alone write an entire narrative about it. Writing pushes me to tell a story in a way that my mind alone never could. I like to think of writing as a medium that takes my racing thoughts and slows them down. There are a hundred things I could be thinking of at any minute, but when I write, everything comes to a stop and I really am able to process what I’m thinking instead of moving on to the next thing.
Lastly, writing for self-reflection and clarity can be one of the most effective ways to escape the real world and the problems that consume it. For that reason, my favorite genre to write in is fiction, because although it’s not directly reflecting on what’s happening in the world around me, it still manages to clarify things in a much more indirect way. Not only that, but it also allows me to be creative. It remarkable to experience your mind translate a thought into an idea, that idea into a sentence, and so on, until somehow the sentences mold together to create a coherent message that can be understood, debated, loved, or hated by your reader—even if that reader is just yourself. It comes back to the concept of flow, where one can just completely get lost in the writing, and when I write fiction, this state is consistent for a long period of time.
Although writing is one of the most effective ways I get clarity and am able to slow down and relax, sometimes it doesn’t work out the way I wish it would. There are certain instances when writing can actually make things more difficult, and that is certainly worth mentioning. For one, writing can often point out major flaws in the ways that I think about things, and that doesn’t always work in my favor. In relationships especially, I don’t always have the soundest sense of reasoning, and that’s just amplified when I try to write it down. Although it may make that clearer for me to see, sometimes I don’t want to realize that my reasoning is flawed because, in a sense, ignorance really is bliss.
Another instance where writing has actually made things harder would be when I’m trying to follow my heart instead of my head. I don’t think that simply writing something down and putting together the pieces can answer all of life’s questions. I believe that certain decisions are meant to be made without any sort of reasoning or rethinking—they are simply meant to be made with your gut feeling. Writing can sometimes really make you over think things to the point where it gets even more confusing than when you started. Last month, when I was feeling a lot of pressure from my parents to decide on a graduate study program, I tried to write down my interests, what type of job I would want, the amount of school I was willing to go to, how much money I wanted to make and why—you know—all that fun stuff. And as I was writing it down, it occurred to me that this was just making me even more confused. I already knew how I felt about the whole thing. Yes, I would hate to have to study all day everyday and feel the pressure of other students who don’t have your interests in mind, but I really wanted to be a lawyer and go to law school. So many people said that if I just took the time to think it through, I would likely decide that it wasn’t the decision for me, but they’re wrong. I don’t’ have any reasoning for why per say, but I just know that it was what I was meant to do. I know my strengths, my work habits, and what I love, and I just know it’s the right thing for me. In that instance, writing it down and weighing the pros and cons was no help to me, and that’s okay.
The truth is, writing isn’t always the answer, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing is about self-expression, putting my jumbled thoughts in a more coherent manner, and yes, sometimes it can even help me make a hard decision. But that’s not why I write. I write because it’s fun. I love how it makes me feel, and that will never, ever change.