The passages that follow are excerpts from a ten-minute in-class free write from the prompt Why do you write? Afterwards, we read aloud in a round and the energy in the room was palpable. I feel so grateful each time I have the chance to write in community with others at Hugo House. I hope our words will feed and connect us with you, too. —Anne Liu Kellor
I write because I feel helpless. I feel frustrated. The news about the 80-year-old man shooting his wife of 50 years because he couldn’t afford her healthcare stays stuck in my head. Each day the picture of this faceless, nameless man haunts me. I know until I release him on paper he will suffocate in my head. I write so I can liberate him.
I write because writing brings up thoughts that I’d buried safely, deep into a trunk, the keys of which I’d flung into an ocean. Writing makes me dive deep into this ocean and retrieve the keys to open a jumble of assorted memories.
I write so I can read the shame—so I can see what I don’t want to confront.
I write so I can meet my grandmother that I’ve never met.
I write as a traveler to a foreign land.
I write to remember.
I write to see the patterns.
I write because I signed up for this class.
I write about joy.
I write when some poem literally jumps out of the air and into my mind and insists on seeing the light of day.
I write so my friends don’t worry.
I write to laugh.
I write so maybe you will laugh too.
I write to remember or to forget or to change the outcome.
I write to discover what I don’t know that I don’t know.
I write to witness my brilliance.
I write to witness my inadequacies.
I’ll always look outside for the cues of what to like, how to be…for someone like me, developing a voice is going to happen in a very uncomfortable but possibly meaningful way—dragged through the muck, perhaps.
I write because I can shape the image of an immigrant into people’s minds.
I write because I can tell people what it’s like to leave a country you have been born and raised in and pack your whole life in 120 pounds.
I write because I want to tell people of the United States, how hard it was for me to relearn life in a completely new culture.
I write because if I don’t, my story will never be told.
I write because I believe my story can make a difference.
I write to honor my pain and everyone’s pain, to uncover the things that we don’t normally talk about. To honor the fact that I can speak, that I have a voice, to recognize this as a freedom that not everyone has.
I write because it makes me seem smarter than I do when I talk. Talking doesn’t leave enough time or space for important things, for synthesizing. I write so I can get gunk out of my head, so I can put my thoughts and emotions onto paper and move them around until they make something coherent; sand down the edges, or sharpen them—shape them into something that makes more sense. I write so I don’t have to be in my head anymore, but in someone else’s in a different world, someone who could be me but isn’t, and spend time with them instead.
I write because for a moment, my dream becomes real for you, too.
I write for past me, who was hurting; for future me, who will hopefully be grateful; and for me now, who appreciates the journey and the rediscovery of breathing and sleeping.
I write as an act of release. I write like I’m stripping naked and turning on bright lights to look at every inch of my body, not just my skin but my muscles and tendons and bones and cartilage and circulatory system.
I write to slow down my thinking, get it down on paper, nail it to the floor, encase it in amber, squeeze it all out of the toothpaste tube until my brain is pleasantly empty and exhausted, like my body after sex.
I write for the high, the fix of seeing my true thoughts and feelings on the page, the holy yes of knowing I have truly heard myself and reflected what I’ve heard on paper.
I write to be less alone. I write to walk with others. I write to see and be seen, to know and be known, to love and be loved.
I write to unclog the brain. To loosen the fairy dust. To find the gem. To not stand still. To practice the craft. To unearth ideas. To slay discontent. To move forward. To reflect backward. To force being present. To coax out the hidden. To splatter the unworthy. To work the grief. To work the regret. To work the forgiveness. Because his eyes were green like dusky succulents. To remember him. To become a writer.
Thank you to Hugo instructor Anne Liu Kellor and the participants in her Building a Writing Practice class for sharing why they write! You can view upcoming classes with Kellor here.