Last night, I went to a reading hosted by my MFA program where different people read their original work. I read an excerpt from one of my stories, but that’s not what I want to talk about. The first reader, who is also a 1st year MFA in Fiction, read a piece titled “Why I Write,” inspired from the long process of applying to MFA programs where we are expected to answer questions about why we write. Her piece was beautifully written, listing reasons from several facets of her life that have inspired her to become a writer.
So I started thinking: why do I write? For me, writing has been something I have always done. I started writing in the 2nd grade to mimic my friend Karen, spelling out stories in my wide-ruled notebooks, adding colored pencil drawings to accentuate the tales. I had a book “published” and placed on the book rack in my 2nd grade classroom. The story was about a kitten that dug up the dirt in a neighbor’s yard. The “book” was pink pieces of cardboard paper cut out in the shape of a cat’s head and held together with yarn.
Now my writing isn’t printed in such a fancy fashion, but it still exists. By the time I reached middle school, writing was not a question for me. It was just something that I did on a regular basis, just as normal as brushing my teeth everyday or buying a school lunch. I also read, all the time. Neither one of these has really changed much since middle school. In high school, I kept painfully detailed journals. In college, I was exposed to a whole new world that helped carry my writing over to new levels; suddenly I could write about college-aged characters, or places that I had traveled.
But the fact that I write on a regular basis isn’t enough; there has to be a desire to write, an inner urge to put pen to paper. And for me, I write because that’s what I know. It goes beyond writing on a creative basis; anytime I want to rectify a sticky situation, I write about it. Anything something good or bad happens, I write about it. Anytime I encounter a person or situation I find interesting, I write about them. I write, I write, I write.
I write because of the people and places I get to visit through the world of creating characters and the dilemmas they encounter. I fall in love with characters as I write them mostly because I will never know exactly everything about them. That is one of the most beautiful parts about writing to me—the mystery. Just like we will never completely know ourselves, I will never completely know my characters, and writing allows me to see how a character will react in a situation or to other characters. Most of the time it’s a complete surprise.
That’s why character development is my favorite part about writing—when writing, I would rather spend more time developing a character then developing the surroundings. In my belief, once the character becomes real, so will everything else. I have created dozens of characters in my writing life, which is incomparable to writers who have been writing for years. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s (one of my favorites) words: “Every story is a foreign territory, which, in the process of writing, is occupied and then abandoned. I belong to my work, to my characters, and in order to create new ones I leave the old ones behind.”
I write because, in my mind, there is nothing else that compares. It is something that I can own. When nothing else makes sense to me, the worlds I create still do and that, above else, is a fantastic thing to be able to count on.
If you also like Jhumpa Lahiri: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/13/110613fa_fact_lahiri?currentPage=1