Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why We Write

I know that as a writer, keeping a journal is a must. I have notebooks from high school that are worn-torn and plastered with drawings, stickers, doodles, and quotes that I want to keep as reminders. As memories of things that happened and who I was.

This is the bottom of one bookshelf. All the notebooks on the bottom left are journals and poems and short stories. The folders to the right are stories from High School. And fairy tales. The next shelf contains more journals and novels I'm working on (slowly).  I have a box of daytimers from long ago that I can't quite throw out because there are pages with notes and newspaper clippings of births and deaths and a romantic treasure hunt from my 3rd anniversary.  Because I have been so busy lately, I haven't done as much journaling as I would like.  As I flipped through the latest Conde Nast Traveler magazine (I read a lot), I came across this page...

Sorry it's sideways. I have no idea how to fix that.
This gentleman, who is an artist, kept 5 Moleskin notebooks with him as he traveled the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Washington state. He took his time and painstakingly captured the essence of his travels.  Isn't it beautiful?  There is something...magical about taking the time to draw what you see, instead of taking a photo. I mean, how many times have you tried to capture a perfect sunset, and you look at the photo and it's not the same? Granted, we are not all artists. I mean, there is no way I could draw a campground like that. But it's the details, you know? He managed to tell his stories and experiences by drawing them.

Why do we write?

Is it because we have something to say? Something oh so important? Do we want to change the world with our words, touch people's hearts and their minds with our words and descriptions?
Is it because we have a very cool story spinning in our dreams and we need to get it on paper?
Is it because we think we could write better than Joe-Sho and make money at it?
Is it because we want to entertain with our witty words?
Is it because it's cathartic?
Is it because you are leaving a legacy? Something for your grandchildren to read in amazement and love at your life?
Is it because all of a sudden we slow down our busy lives and take the time to carefully construct sentences and dialogue that brings us back to a memory we had, an experience that changed us, a moment so beautiful or so tragic that we weep on our keyboard?

If I may be so bold as to say so, think long and hard about why you write.  

Don't let money or publishing contracts or failure or success define you. That's the same as letting the world tell you who you are. No one can do that but GOD.
Writing is a purely creative gift that you need to embrace and cultivate and practice.  The world can only tell you if you're marketable to certain people.

If you have a burning rush in your heart, why are you stopping it?

I apologize for the length of this post, but I love this poem below.  While I don't agree with all the words in it, it has a burning passion in it that I'm sure you will understand.

so you want to be a writer?

Charles Bukowski1920 - 1994

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.
 Please keep writing. If only for yourself.

Jenn Kelly is a writer. And for now, that is enough. You can reach her at because right now she's writing about the farm-life.


  1. Well, I'll have to respectfully disagree with the poet. I'd have a lot of unhappy readers if I'd followed his advice, because I never would've finished the Port Aster Secrets series.

    1. I'm curious, Sandra. Do you mean by the 'hours slaved over a keyboard'? :) I don't agree with him completely either, but I like...the passion, the artistry, the...urge behind it. Does that make sense? I hope I don't offend by having posted it now...dang.

  2. Love that unique journal you featured in this post, Jenn--thanks for sharing it. What a beautiful record of that man's journey! And re the poem you have featured, I'm not offended at all by it. Yes, there will be times when we write when it is just plain hard work, but I do agree with the poet that, if there isn't that urgency burning inside us to get that story or poem out there, then maybe it isn't the right time for us to try. I have had seven book published, with an eighth under consideration. I have been trying to get into my ninth for some time now but it doesn't quite seem to be coming together. So I have just stepped back a bit and am waiting for that strong passion about the book to take hold of me--and then I will know it's what God wants me to write next. There will still be lots of hard work ahead for me, but I will have that inner compulsion to do it because God has birthed something in me. Hope that all makes sense! .

  3. I agree, Jo-Anne, that taking a break can help to crystalize you visions, or rather God's vision. I have no doubt that it will come in time. I too agree that the poet is right about the passion that has to be there, but not about rewriting. I grow even more passionate as I rewrite and see my work become more and more what I originally conceived. Rare is the passage that stays exactly as it rocketed from me.