“Writing is a way of being happy. Even if you’re writing about something sad.” ―Poet Alan Shapiro
Henry James said that a writer is a reader who has been moved to emulation. I’m struck by his use of the word “moved,” which implies there are intervening forces that affect, propel, or incite the reader to seek out the page for self-expression. Therefore, to answer the question of why I write, I must explore the forces that moved me.
I always knew I wanted to write, but I also decided at a very young age that I would become a lawyer. When my parents separated and then divorced, the eleven-year-old me assessed my mother’s situation – age forty, left alone with two children and no college degree or lengthy work experience – and I decided that to avoid that predicament I would go to law school.
The best part about practicing law was the research and writing, including the writing of briefs, memos, legislative summaries, and testimony before Congress. It was great training, because I was expected to write on demand, with strict deadlines. I learned that I didn’t need “inspiration” to strike before completing a legal writing assignment. Still, I secretly wanted to write fiction, but on weekends when I sat down to write, I couldn’t do so. Looking back, I think I didn’t yet have anything to say.
Many years later, at home caring for my young children, I began to feel that I must write, and finally, the words poured out of me. As a stay-at-home mother, I had no real creative outlet. During most of the period I practiced law, I also taught yoga, which gave me space to play with music and the sequencing of asanas. I taught six classes a week, and each class was sequenced differently and used different mixes of music. Teaching yoga had provided an outlet for creative energy that the practice of law had lacked.
Perhaps more importantly, I was also emerging from a very tumultuous period in which I lost my father and grandmother and become a mother to my two children, while continuing to fumble my way through being a stepmother to a teenager. I felt compelled to write, if only to process my experiences and try to make some meaning out of why we are here in this life. Now, writing feels like the natural response to the events in life that make impressions on me. When I read a newspaper article about a young girl prostituted by her 10 year old sister, I hung on to the horrific tale until I turned it into a short story, which I hope will eventually become the basis for a novel. I continue to be confused and pained by a colleague’s suicide, but I’ve begun writing through it in the form of a short story. There are dozens of experiences like these that I feel in my gut, including connections to certain places and people, as well as life events, that I will find a way to understand through the act of putting pen to paper.