I Write Because…

I am a writer. I create. I dream. My head is in the clouds most of the time, which is probably why I am still reeling somewhat from the Publishing Conference I attended last weekend. Called “The Suitcase Under the Bed Seminar”, it was a very authoritative look at the business of publishing, run by two publishing experts with a wealth of experience and knowledge. There were stats—rather sobering stats—on the (small) number of readers in South Africa, and the (low) average book sales in our country. There was a discussion on the (vast) number of manuscripts received every month, and the (rare) writers who receive a contract.

It was informative and sobering and I’m (generally) glad I heard it all, even if my head dropped out of the clouds to hover somewhere in the lower branches of a tree. Yet, in the midst of the healthy reality-dose, one of the speakers, Alison, asked something very profound, which I’ve been churning on this entire week. She asked, “Why do you write?”

Why do I write?

It should be a simple question to answer, but it isn’t. There is a tangle of motivations, longings, emotions and dreams bound up in that single, short question. Let me unravel a few of the main strands.

I write because…it is who I am in the deepest part of me. To not write feels like a betrayal of myself. A stunting. A death.

I write because…it helps me comprehend the world. In describing emotions, I have to dig deep, beyond the superficial level of my own—or another’s—heart. To create a scene requires more than a cursory glance; it requires seeing and perceiving, hearing and understanding, tasting and experiencing.

I write because…I long to connect with others. Words are dry when they tumble from my lips. They crack and warp with nervousness. But on the page, my words sing and dance with joy. They come alive, at least for me, which makes me hope they come alive for others too.

I write because…I love to be surprised. I am a wife and mother. I cook, clean, drive, listen and counsel. My life is full of routine and schedules. Yet the moment I drop into a story, everything changes. I’m somewhere else and anything can happen. Even as the creator of the story, the twists and turns delight me, because often I do not see them coming. For an hour or two each day, I live different and more exciting lives, and the spark of that ignites my own predictable life with joy and purpose too.

I write because…I hope my words will touch and change hearts and lives. Maybe there is something a bit arrogant about this—thinking that I have something to offer the world. Yet, I am unable to deny this deep longing, which is the reason why I can’t just enjoy writing the story, and then let the manuscript languish in the suitcase under the bed.

In short, I am compelled to write, despite the sobering stats and meagre chances of finding a publisher. I am grateful to Alison for asking the question (in fact, she asked four questions, but maybe that’s material for another blog post).

For now, it is enough to know that I write because I am a writer. You might all be glad to hear (unless you’re a publisher with a huge slush pile) that my head just broke through the low cloud cover as I typed that.








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  1. Thank you for expressing what I feel so deeply – I also write because I must.
    Incidentally, no publisher (and I think I grovelled my knees to the bone before them all) would accept my mss because, they say, people don’t buy historical novels. So I self-published, literally, and with printer and glue we started a family venture which is fast becoming a profit-making indie publisher.

    • Thanks for sharing a bit of your own journey, Mary. It’s always so inspiring to hear how this love of writing plays out in somebody else’s life.

  2. Nicole Campbell

    Keep writing Mom! I think you have such a gift and I LOVE reading anything you’ve written.

    Love you so much

  3. And so do I Nicole! I LOVE it when I get the e mail that there is a new blog from Joan!
    I was also thinking, you and Ashlyn are somewhat alike, disappearing into another world (life) . Wonderful to create that opportunity. I do only boring things, but then again, I do like routine and boring things….

  4. Well expressed Joan.For me writing gives me a voice.
    I have stuttered since I was a child and so could not express what I wanted to verbally, which has been very frustrating.
    Writing has enabled me to finally share my inner reality with others. This has been a great release and blessing.

  5. Hou asb aan om te skryf. Vir my is dit altyd ‘n “jippie”-ervaring as ek sien daar is iets om te lees wat van jou af kom.

  6. So glad you write Joan. I love reading anything you’ve written, and not just because you’re my sister. I am sad that SA people don’t read more, and then realise I am one of them because life got so busy. But every now and then I stand still long enough to enjoy the pleasure of reading. Don’t stop writing – you have a God-given talent. And John, you touched my heart with your comment. I understand some of tha., when I went through a hard time in my life, I wrote because the written words where easier to formulate on paper (computer), than to speak them aloud.

  7. Yes you are a writer Joan – there is a fresheness and authenticity that engages – entices one to embark on the journey with you. No gift from God is to be denied or neglected – it means he’s equipped you to do what he wants done. You’ve only just begun – I foresee lots of blossoming – and fruit…..!

  8. Beautifully written! Thanks, Joan!

  9. You really do write beautifully!
    Write to simply celebrate your gift…and dream big! 🙂
    With love

  10. Or just the pen of a ready writer. Pauli once asked “why do you keep doing it?” My reply, “because he makes so much compelling sense to me”. You have all the attributes of a prophetic writer, with a supernatural fire in you that refuses to back down. That is not you, its him at work in you. Don’t let anyone break that bruised reed. Smoke away, oh flax, smoke away, until heaven sees your signals and the great writer Gabriel, barges through the hoards of hell to reach you and bring you the messages of hope you need.

  11. Yes. Your answer to that question resonates with me. Writing is often a purer and deeper from of expression; and I too hope that it can touch and positively impact another person, or two or three…

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