'It's time to write' photo (c) 2010, Justin See (coming back) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Why do I write? Why do any of us write? What could possibly be interesting, fun, or fulfilling about spending hours bent over notebooks and computer screens, stringing letters and words together, many of which that will never be opened to any other eyes… or maybe even thrown away?

I really do ask myself this question. Often, actually. I’ll go strong for a while, striving to be a “real” writer and write every day, and then the wall is there, the frustration, the sense that I’m really too tired and there are more important ways to use my time. Lately, writing for pleasure and art’s sake has been eluding me, taking a backseat to more “important” things, like working and spending time with people and sleeping.

Then I talk to other writers who find something soul-stirring and cathartic in word-stringing. Or I’ll read something so stunning it looks like magic, or hear a song with words so beautiful it brings tears. Words have power. They are a currency of beauty, wonder, courage and hope, and if I can share in the mystery of creating with them, then maybe it’s all worthwhile.

Today was the National Day of Writing, as I found out from Twitter and blogs I read. It’s too late for me to write a coherent essay on “Why I Write,” (Though many others have done an exceptional job! See Kristin’s post “Why We Should Write it Down” as one example.) but if I might be pretentious enough to share a poem I wrote a few years ago, I believe it will sum up the reason I do this well enough.


I know poetry when I see it.
How it dances and sings and leaps
Across the page
How it shapes the white space
Breathing life into ink marks and wood pulp
Where there was once nothing

I know poetry when I see it
Where only the essence of a truth is compressed
In a line so small, but so full that
You read it over and over again
Just to know it by heart.
You write it down word for word
Letter for letter
Period for period
For wonder of what it felt
To write it.

I know poetry when I see it
Standing on my toes
Straining for a glimpse over
The shoulders of giants
Feeling small and speechless
In their presence


I feel the surge of words
Begging to be let out.
I hear them whispering in the notes of a song
Or the voice of a friend
Or a sudden epiphany

I doubt their worth and wonder if they matter,
And if they could mean anything
To anyone
But me.

But I write them
(or at least I try to)
Desiring to honor in the smallest way
The poetry I’ve seen.

Like a little girl
In her mother’s high heels
Five sizes too large.