One of the interactive art pieces at Burning Man is WDYDWYD. Why do you do what you do?
People are pictured next to their answers.
“I do what I do because I am who I am.”
“Because it’s a living.”
“I do exactly what I want to do and hope the consequences aren’t bad.”
One of the first homework assignments for the class I’m taking on writing and getting published is an essay titled Why I Write. I read the piece and thought of WDYDWYD from Burning Man. But instead of broadly talking about why I do what I do, I thought tonight I’d share why I write.
I’ve been writing since my early elementary school years—soon after I started reading. I don’t mean that I was writing for assignments or to perfect my grammar skills. I wrote because I wanted to. Because I felt like it was my outlet for talking. I was a shy kid. I remember the optometrist dilating my eyes and asking me to count to ten. I knew how to count to ten. In fact I knew how to count to 110. I wasn’t scared about being wrong. I was scared to even open my mouth. I didn’t like to talk. I wrote to share my feelings. I didn’t share them with anyone. They stood on the page alone in my journals. I liked filling my pages with words. I liked having something to show for my emotions. I don’t write fiction. I only write about myself now. But when I was a kid, I wrote a love story about a girl named Ziggy. She fell in love with her neighbor Todd. And they eventually found their happily ever after with each other. I was proud of my story. It wasn’t a homework assignment. I wrote it for myself. A cute, little love story for myself. I spent a few days drafting it up on paper, then typed it out on our electric typewriter. I bound it up in a green folder like a book report and titled it The Neighbor Next Door. I remember the first sentence. “My name is Ziggy which is short for Elizabeth.” Even then I was anal little kid. I always knew where my belongings were. My allowance was always accounted for. I never lost anything. One morning after eating my bowl of oatmeal, I got up to set the bowl in the kitchen sink. I was ready to run upstairs and get ready for school, when my mom said, “I read your story.”
My heart started pounding. What was she talking about?
She continued. “I read the story you wrote in the green folder. I thought it was a book report. I thought you might want me to review it like all your other book reports.”
Shit. I knew I was in trouble. My mom was about to yell at me for writing a romantic novel.
“It was a good story. You’re a good writer, Cat.”
My mom rarely paid us any compliments. I was relieved, I thought I was in for a lashing. Like I said, I don’t write fiction anymore, but to this day, I still write love stories. Love stories that are centered around my life. I write because I’m still alone. Because I don’t have a partner to share my stories with every day. I write because my blog is my virtual best friend–someone who is here at all times. I write because people laugh, cry, get offended, understand, sympathize, empathize. I write because it’s not easy being alone and I hope that people who read this realize that even when you are surrounded by so many good friends, that you can still feel very very alone. I’m not just talking about me. I’m talking about everybody. When I cried to my mom one evening how lonely it was to be single and alone, she soothed, “Even when you’re with someone, you can feel very very alone.”
That’s why. I write to share my solitude. I write to be the voice of my single brethren. I write because one day I’ll fall in love…truly, unconditionally, all-encompassingly…fall in love. And I’ll look back on this with a sorrowful smile. I’ll remember. I won’t forget what it’s taken to get to that place of happiness. I write to feel. I experience my moments. But when I write about them, I feel like I actually live them–even more so than when I experienced them.