By Stephanie Austin
I feel like I’m cheating by writing this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a creative writing class and the instructor has required us to tell him why we write. But in my most recent experience of this scenario, I changed what I usually put. I wrote something about wanting to be an editor and that I would feel more credible if I practice the craft rather than just tell others how to improve their own. I’m not saying this isn’t a true reason that I write. I’m not saying I lied every time I responded to that prompt up until that day in class. That would be saying that I lie in such on-the-spot writing prompts. I can’t say I’ve ever put down the thoughts in my own free time of I why I write and allowed myself to flesh out the idea beyond why I think I write in that moment, involving my current life situation.
This is where I am, now, with a new realization. So here I am trying to say why I’m writing. Period. Past, present, future.
There’s a documentation of that process of learning. I keep most of it in my old notebooks hoarded in the cabinet of my desk at home. I can’t bring myself to reread them often. That very documentation is proof that I have grown as a writer. I’ve chosen writing and dedicated myself to the cultivation of my abilities in this craft. My affinity for writing began with the habit-forming practice before we took the FCAT writing test in fourth grade. That habit continued in fifth grade, middle school, until now and hopefully the future. That past writing has all been safely stored away. “Safely” because I cringe when I look back at my stereotypical middle school poetry in which I tried to sound dreamy and romantic while knowing little to nothing about romance, the documentation of a growing writer says something about writing. Not only does the writer grow but the writing that she documents this process in grows as well. The writing grows with the writer.
So. Why? Why do that? Why do I do that? Because I can, or because I want to? I’m not sure which comes first, or if it’s both. Those are such simple answers that it doesn’t feel complete to leave it at that.
It’s natural to write because it lets me think about what I’m saying and not forget what I want to say. I can say everything before I say only as much as I need to say. In habit and in practice, it has become a natural extension of myself to the point where I can’t think of a future where writing is not an integral part of my life. For now, I imagine I’m a sort of pacifist writer who wants readers to just have any response to her pieces and therefore I have learned to use it as a tool and not quite the weapon that it can be. I have been taught to think in words and that is what I put on the page. These are my thoughts and I control which ones you get to see because editing and erasing serve as my shield. But I don’t use it as my weapon to make you bleed.
That would go beyond cheating, and it makes no sense for me to wound my reader rather than uncomfortably reveal my thoughts in spite of how I hide some of their imperfections. No one else sees it all, but I can write more than what I wold willingly say.