I write because I was brought up to be seen and not heard and now I’m heard. I write because I was once invisible, I had no voice, I had nothing to say. I write because I was called “twin” all through elementary school and now I’m the one that does the naming, thank you.
I write because I love the shapes of letters. I write because I love the word lickspittle. I write because it’s an old habit and I can’t break it. I write because I’m quite incompetent at anything else.
I write to cover my erratic employment record with my long list of publications. I write because I have an incurable case of scriptomania. I write because I love sitting in a room by myself writing. I write because I love to write at the table with the other writers. I write because I read great passages in books by other writers and I want to write great passages too. I write because I’m an obsessive compulsive. I write because I can’t play tennis.
I write because I like to sit in early morning light. I write because when you write no one’s bossing you around. I write to find out what I think. I write to compress a big subject into a small space. I write because I like honing the skill and gaining the mastery, piece after piece after piece. I write because I adore sentences. I write because I love the words rebarbative, buggery, and bug. I write because I read “The Raggedy Man” when I was a child and I wished I had written “The Raggedy Man.”
I write because I can tell my journal anything I want. I write because I like the sound of the pen scratching across the page. I write so I can buy a new notebook every time I finish filling up an old notebook. I write so I can talk to my characters. I write because my characters force me to write or they get pissed off.
I write because I like to read to an audience and you can’t read to an audience if you haven’t written anything.
I write because I could never leave the workshop I’ve been in for twenty years. I write because I like to see books I’ve written consorting with books other writers have written on my bookshelf. I write because if Hemingway can write, why can’t I?
I write because if I didn’t write I’d be a mess. I write because even if I’m a mess it doesn’t matter because I am a writer. I write because when I was sixteen I decided to be a writer when I grew up. I write because I like to write. I write because if I didn’t write I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do. I write because when I get really really pissed off I can always write about it. I write because my fingers won’t stop writing. I write because I’m in competition with Colette and Virginia Woolf and Nabokov and all those other fakirs.
Why do I write? Why?
Just because I do, that’s why.
BIO: Priscilla Long‘s science column, Science Frictions
, appears each Wednesday on The American Scholar website. Her most recent book is The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. Her poems, stories, and creative nonfictions appear widely in journals such as Under the Sun, Cincinnati Review, The American Scholar, The Southern Review, Raven Chronicles, Web Conjunctions, The Alaska Quarterly, Fourth Genre, Tampa Review, and Passages North. Her awards include a National Magazine Award and Seattle and Los Angeles arts commission awards. She teaches writing and is author of a history book, Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America’s Bloody Coal Industry. She serves as Senior Editor for www.historylink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history. For more information please visit www.PriscillaLong.com.
(photo credit: Tony Ober)