Why I write and why I don’t

In case you were wondering why that congregation of homeless writers has convened in your neighborhood street to wave REED A BOOK, YU STOOPID ILLITERATS banners, dance like tribal warriors and sing the praises of indie authors everywhere… it’s because October 20 is the National Day on Writing.

Power to the people.

Earlier, I tried to be mainstream and put into words “why I write,” but I just ended up staring at the blinking cursor on my screen. The reasons that came to mind were the usual ones: “I write because I must,” “I write so I can breathe,” etc. And even though I was already totally conforming by trying to figure out exactly why I do the thing that so often keeps my world from collapsing inward on itself, I refused to accept my stale, unoriginal answer(s).

So I guess the best way to explain why I write is by doing what I do most naturally—storytelling (because isn’t that essentially what “writing” is at its core?).

My friend asked me recently if I keep a diary. I told her I didn’t anymore, although I’d always been taught to do so and had been doing so ever since I was old enough to put words on a page. Like, seriously. I have diaries with entries that only proclaim, “I LOVE MOMMY.” I have the sneaking suspicion that my mother helped me hold the pen.

Anyway, I stopped keeping diaries because a few years ago, I got to a point in my life when I didn’t want to remember things anymore, and what is a diary if not a book of memories? I filled my diaries with my heart and soul and secrets and despairs, and had a habit of flipping back through past entries, after which time I’d generally feel like bad, bad person. I’d write in my diary when something extraordinary happened to me—and it’s incredible how often what you consider to be “extraordinary” turns out to be an event or experience that made you feel wronged or targeted or alone.

I learned early to write to remember, but the bad part about that is that it’s hard to start afresh when you keep reading back over your memories. So I stopped keeping diaries.

But even after that, I found that I couldn’t stay away from writing. I began to dabble in short stories, and over time my memories grew to be integrated into these works of semi-fiction. It’s not that I forgot what actually happened, it’s that I chose to remember differently, to approach the same memory from the eyes of a character. I wrote about sorrow, and somewhere along the way, I stopped crying. I wrote about terror, and somewhere along the way, I found courage. I wrote about heartbreak, and somewhere along the way, I healed.

So yes, the reason why I write is incredibly cliché, but it’s also absolutely true to me. I don’t write so that I can breathe, because when I put a memory on the page, my lungs really don’t work at all.

But I do write because I am broken.

In fact, I write because I have no answers.

I write because I have lost my voice, my mind, my way.

I believe in a Creator who has given us the privilege of creating for ourselves. And in stories and storytelling, I have learned (and continue to learn) to live again, because I see Him in the poetry and the beauty of language.

And in learning that, simply that, I have tasted of something bigger than myself. Because maybe, just maybe, what I write will help someone else to see what I’ve seen; maybe it will point toward the One who truly has the power to make our dying, crying world new.

Again.

–Samantha Chaffin

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7 thoughts on “Why I write and why I don’t

  1. thejaneite says:

    Oh my Sam, this was lovely!! And hilarious, as I can always count on from you- I love the part about “that congregation of homeless writers has convened in your neighborhood street” especially. 😀 And your reasons for writing are wonderful- I totally get it. I was far too daunted to try to write up anything about “why I write” but you’ve done it splendidly. Excellent job my friend.

    • samchaffin says:

      Aw thank you, Miss Albano. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if it was entirely coherent when I posted it; I wrote it pretty late that night when my brain was half asleep. Haha but I’m glad it made someone laugh (and I’m sure you could have written your reasons for writing just as if not far more eloquently)! 🙂

  2. Alina Maira says:

    This is incredible! Theres just so much power in the way you write that makes me want to jot down everything your saying and write it in a book of quotes. I’d mention all my favorite parts, but I’d be cutting and pasting forever 🙂

  3. Laini says:

    OMG. Samantha, this is so beautiful. You write because you are broken. Isn’t that what art is? A way for us to face our fears, face our hurt, and try to begin to heal? I’m learning in my art this semester, something very difficult: I am starting to face MYSELF. That is TERRIFYING. My singing is becoming much more personal and it’s starting to come from a very deep, dark place in myself that I don’t like. And it’s so hard to face. But in doing so, I feel that I’m learning to accept myself for who I am, just like God does, and learning to face up to reality and not hide from myself, It’s a very frightening journey, but it’s a journey that I think we all need to take. What better way to face ourselves then through art?

    Anyways, I need to stop rambling and leave the writing to you since you know what you’re doing. I just wanted to say that this post hit home for me and I love it. 😀

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