Why I Write

April 17, 2024

Life is unrelenting. We all know that. It doesn’t stop for a minute to let you absorb it all in, it just keeps pushing and expects you to push along with it. Most of the time I do. More recently, I haven’t been able to. Or maybe I can and just don’t want to. I think it’s because I’m tired, but the word tired seems so mundane. If you’re tired, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. I am. If you’re tired, try taking a few rest days. I have. “Tired” doesn’t explain the rut I’m in.

I saw some writing prompts on Pinterest recently and thought that if I try a few, it’ll help me break out of this. I picked one that asked why I write, so here is my attempt to unpack that question. Perhaps if I can refresh my relationship with writing, I’ll feel less tired.

So: Why do I write?

First, to understand. To understand myself, others, my spirituality, my anxieties. When I write, my words and feelings fall on the page effortlessly. No one is in front of me with a scrutinizing look or a patronizing comment. For instance, take a tangled ball of string. If you spend some time just tugging and pulling at every loose end that needs pulling, eventually it’ll unravel. If I sit and write and ramble—even if it is nonsensical at times—eventually, I’ll feel a sense of clarity, and the weight on my chest will feel slightly lighter. And that’s another thing: writing doesn’t have to be eloquent and sophisticated all the time! I think it’s a beautiful thing when you can just let the words flow as they wish, without forcing them to look and act a certain way. Some of my best pieces of writing have been made that way.

Also, understanding isn’t just emotional. Writing helps me understand philosophy and politics. Writing an article about a political event helps me understand the ideologies at play and the philosophies that are used to approach it. People mistakenly believe that to begin writing about something you must know all there is to know on the topic, but I often find that I learn through the very process of writing. To write is to understand, and researching is part of writing. When I write more, I find that I have a deeper appreciation for the simpler things, such as beauty and art. A walk down the street will have me in awe at the trees, slowly constructing words in my head to explain just how beautiful they are. Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of feeling and love, and it’s wonderful how word after word can depict such nuances. 

Why do I write? Because I sound smarter when I write than when I talk. In his essay Why I Write, George Orwell claims his first reason is “sheer egoism.” When he was a child, people criticized his poems; he wanted to prove wrong those who had snubbed him. I can’t gloss over this slightly less poetic element. I love being told that I write well, and I love admiring my poetry. I cannot deny it—writers are more vain than most. More so than doctors and lawyers. Though, as Orwell states, much less interested in money. Ha! During my limbo stage of career-picking (which, arguably, I may still be in), I knew that writing had little to offer in terms of wealth, but how could I give up such a beautiful aesthetic? Messy bookshelves and crammed writing desks flatter my sense of intelligence. I am aware of this side of writing. I am aware that my tone has shifted to one much more sophisticated now that the question of egoism has entered. I am also aware that I have made quite a jump from my last point where I claim that writing doesn’t have to be eloquent all the time. But it’s one of the reasons why I write! As Rudyard Kipling states, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” 

Why do I write? To make a change. The shift from admitting that I write for my vanity to saying that I want to make a change may be laughable, but it is true! It’s all part and parcel of this complex act. Writing isn’t as simple as being positive or negative. It’s multifaceted. Since we write while experiencing all kinds of emotions, one must have all kinds of motives for writing. Does that make sense? I hope so. Anyway, back to the point. To make a change. It sounds silly and corny. When I began journaling at the age of sixteen, it was because I often read poetry and journal entries that made me feel understood. I loved flicking through lines and thinking that nothing had ever encapsulated how I felt better than those few words from a complete stranger. So in a roundabout way, I subconsciously felt that if I wrote, perhaps I could do the same for someone else. Maybe a young, brown, aspiring writer will see this one day and think that this is also why they want to write, and maybe that will inspire them! It’s highly unlikely, but there is a chance, and I love the thought. When I first began writing articles, most of them centered on South Asian women’s issues. I wrote about education for women in the subcontinent, the plastic surgery epidemic, and toxic beauty standards. They were all issues that I felt strongly about, and I hoped that writing about them would bring awareness to the issue.

I hope I can keep this passion and energy going forward. It is heartwarming to remember myself writing with such high hopes for my work. It makes me want to write more. Writing is powerful! It’s a form of activism. It’s a way of reminding yourself that you have a chance, because writing is one of the greatest forms of freedom. 

Looking back on these reflections, I realize that my relationship with writing is a lot more complicated than I perhaps gave it credit for. It can feel horrible and exhausting when all your writing is timed assignments and research papers with seemingly no end. It feels good to remind myself why I write and that writing doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be art.

But it also doesn’t have to be art. It can be plain and simple. It can be whatever I need on any given day. I shall try to write more as we enter spring.

 

Safa Ali is an aspiring writer who combines academic rigor with a creative flare. Her distinctive voice in literature, nurtured by a profound love for poetry and art, resonates with readers seeking originality and depth.

 

 

 

Featured image by Sixteen Miles Out.

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