“What do you do?” they ask shortly after introductions, not an unusual conversation for people who have just met.
I have three answers to that question. “I’m a technical writer,” I say when I want to move on from the conversation.
“I’m a musician,” I say when I want to seem cool.
“I’m a writer,” I say when I forget what the next question will be.
“What do you write?”
The vaguest answer: “Fantasy.”
Their response: “That’s nice,” with a plastered on smile.
One of these days I’d love for someone to ask me why I write and why I write fantasy.
I was eleven years old when I knew I wanted to be a novelist. By age thirteen or fourteen I called myself a writer because I wrote every day and even at that age writing was such an intrinsic part of my identity that calling myself an aspiring writer felt like a lie. Now, I’m twenty-four, and I’ve been seriously writing for over ten years, and I’ve never been asked why.
Why do I sit for hours alone everyday torturing myself about word placement and experimenting with sentence structure? Why have I invested hundreds of dollars into whiteboards and bulletin boards that are covered with plot arcs and character sketches? Why do I spend more time in the minds of fictional characters than I sometimes spend in my own?
Because it’s fun.
Because I can’t imagine anything else?
Because when I was a child, I read so voraciously that I read all the books about brave little girls going on adventures and I realized there weren’t enough, so I decided I was going to write more.
Because when I was a pre-teen being bullied and ostracized by my peers writing about strong women defying the rules of society to pursue their dreams was how I processed my anger and depression.
Because when I was a teenager writing earned me praise from my teachers and my peers.
Because when I was trapped in depression after leaving college writing pulled me out and reminded me of who I was.
Sometimes, there are days when I don’t have time to write because of work and music and household chores, and I hit the end of the day, and I’m too tired to write. If there are too many of these days in close succession, I start to lose myself. I grow irritable and numb to my own emotions. I become a person I don’t like. And then I sit down and write – it doesn’t matter if it’s a song or a scene or a blog post or a diary entry; I become myself again.
I write because I am a writer and without writing, I’m not myself.
Thank you for reading.
For any writers reading this: why do you write? What questions do you wish people would ask you about your writing?