Why Write? by @EdenBaylee

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing of late, more thinking than writing, especially late at night. This makes me want to beat myself up mentally sometimes, makes me wonder why I can't sleep. 

In the past, when want-to-be writers wanted to chat about writing, I obliged but with some trepidation. I don’t do small talk, and to wax poetic on the craft of writing seemed meaningless unless there was real life application. Were we writing a book together? If not, then what I had to contribute would probably be of little help. I’m not an academic, and theorizing about writing can never take the place of the act of writing itself. It’s a discipline that's learned while putting it in practice. 

Writing is also a solitary endeavour, not a group effort. I say this even though I write with a partner every month. Bill Kirton (who also contributes to this site) and I compose stories together, but our individual pieces are written without prior discussion, so the act of writing is in isolation. It’s only in the final stage of piecing together our parts that we feel a need to discuss (sometimes argue) craft and aspects of the story. 

So, let me meander a bit and tell you about a nightmare I had last night. I hardly ever remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me even into the morning. In my dream, I was lying in bed; someone was beside me—a woman. I couldn’t tell who she was, but then she began shapeshifting. That she was transforming into something else scared me, even though she didn’t appear to have evil intentions. When I tried getting out of bed and screaming for help, my body froze in place and my voice was silenced. I woke up my husband with my rapid breathing, which he said also escalated in volume. I’ve had less than a handful of nightmares in all the years we’ve been together. I can’t even remember the last time I woke him up with one. Strangely though, I fell back to sleep easily afterward. Unfortunately for my husband, he didn’t. Don't worry, he took a nap later, heh. 

Back to writing …  

No other animal writes. From a purely biological angle, writing is unnecessary for our survival. So … why write? An author whom I respect recently said to me: “It’s a compulsion. Even when it’s difficult and I accomplish little at the end of the day, I feel better when I write.” 

I get it. It may only be a few hundred words, but it adds momentum to a work in progress. 

In communication with another writer, I tried to express the difference between spoken word and the written word. Spoken words are ephemeral, and unless someone records them on audio or writes them down, they’re gone forever. Writing is more permanent, and nowhere is this more apparent than in social media. Words can come back to haunt its writer. 

We may speak before we think, but we almost never write before we think, and it’s this mental investment toward what will eventually be written that is overlooked as “work.” It’s mind work, and it’s impossible to quantify or qualify. This work can play havoc with us as we become better writers, as our inner critics become more discerning. Where once only a few words mattered, now it requires that every word be the right one. 

Add to this the question of the value of writing. What is the point of it and who needs my voice anyway? The world won’t stop because I choose not to write. As humans, we do a lot of seemingly futile things that don’t ask us to account for its value in time spent, so I keep returning to my question … why write? 

And the answer is as simple as: Words have power, and it's the best way I know how to communicate. It won’t cure all the ills of the world, but it reflects who I am in ways that other inconsequential tasks do not. 

Drawing on old dream interpretation theory, I believe the woman in bed next to me was just another version of myself. In this strange time of isolation, while overthinking my work pursued in a solitary environment, my subconscious felt the need to give me a jab. It certainly keeps life interesting anyway.

How about you, why do you write? Please feel free to share. 

eden đź’›


Peter Leyland said…
A good piece Eden, full of incidents and reflections about the craft and what a powerful nightmare you had. It's also really interesting to hear about your joint writing project with Bill.

You asked why we write? On a short story course I attended the tutor said that one reason for writing is to make sense of our experience, and that works for me. I told the story of how I wrote my last blog about War and Peace at my birthday meeting last week. Hoots of laughter from my daughter and son-in-law!
D.L. Finn said…
Good question, Eden:) I think because I have no choice, the stories swirl inside me insisting on being told. They do press more in the middle of the night. Scary dream but it may lead your storytelling somewhere. I don't have as many nightmares when I'm writing. Wonderful post!
Wendy H. Jones said…
I couldn't agree more, Eden, words do, indeed, have power as do your dreams. Why write, you ask? The answer for me is twofold - because I have to and because it brings other people enjoyment. Thank you for asking thew question and for making me think about this.
Paulie said…
Not necessarily as a writer but as someone who writes (yeah, I know, we've covered this, you and I), I've spent many a late night awake, thinking about a piece or a story. 

Some of my best ideas visit me at 2 in the AM and inconveniently leave about the time I get up.

I thought about turning on the light and taking notes but that would require a choice between writing and keeping my marriage - I'll get back to you on that.

Your author friend hit the nail on the head when he called writing a compulsion. 

We differ on the daily part though. 

I can sit at the computer and a few minutes in say "fuck it," or as I did today writing about America and guns go most of the day nonstop. Feast or famine baby.

You wrote, "The answer is as simple as...it's the best way I know how to communicate." 


Others have their own mediums, their own compulsions. 

I have a friend who paints. Her work is powerful and communicates women's issues. She's a fellow runner. I never would've guessed. 

Another does portrait photography, in black and white. He nails emotions and the human condition in ways I can only dream of doing.

The first few wordless bars of Gary Moore's Parisienne Walkways tear at my heart.

So, we write, we compose music, we paint or we photograph because it completes us. 

I absolutely love this post Eden but you've dashed my fantasy of sitting at an outdoor cafe drinking whatever and chatting about writing. 
Bill Kirton said…
I suspect you already know my answer to your question, Eden, and I've bored you enough in our chats, so I won't repeat it here. On the other hand, I'm prepared to dodge accusations of pretentiousness and say that writing's a compulsion even though I write knowing very well that I'll never approach the perfection of my hero, Flaubert, who frequently finds phrases to express the inexpressible. As he says: "la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fĂŞlĂ© ou nous battons des mĂ©lodies Ă  faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les Ă©toiles." (I know you don’t need a translation, but I think some might and the best I’ve seen was by Lydia Davis: ‘…as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest of metaphors, since none of us can ever express the exact measure of our needs, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to move the stars to pity’.)
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Peter, thank you for commenting.

I like your response. We do make sense of our world through writing and storytelling. When we can write down what we process via our other senses, it solidifies the experience.


Eden Baylee said…
Hi Denise, thanks for sharing how you're compelled to write and get your stories out.

Great reasons to do so!

Eden Baylee said…
Hi Wendy,

Interesting how you say you 'have to' write. I think many writers feel this way, like an itch they MUST scratch. :D

Appreciate your comment,
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Paul, as usual, I need to take my time to respond to your comment. Since you've also added this to my personal blog, I'll write a more personal response there.

Truth >> "So, we write, we compose music, we paint or we photograph because it completes us."

I agree, and we do this because life isn't just about survival and consumption. It's about living in a way that expresses who we are, which makes each one of us unique.

Thank you for commenting ,
Eden Baylee said…
Damn Bill, you are pretentious! HAHAH! Just kidding.

I know you're a Flaubert scholar, and yes, that is a beautiful piece, although more so in French, right?

So long as you're writing, you will still have a chance to find the perfection you seek. ;)
Reb MacRath said…
Great post. I wish I could comment meaningful but after all these years I know as little of the Whys of writing as I do its X's and Z's. I do know that I have four goals that I try to honor: to thrill, astonish, move, and delight. And I suppose I also know that writing's more fun than hunting bears--or, for that matter, hunting bare...which can get pretty darned cold.
Reb MacRath said…
Comment meaningfully
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Reb, thanks for commenting! You gave me a chuckle, haha. :D

Who would NOT want to feel thrilled, astonished, moved, and delighted?

Nobody, I say!

We have bears in Canada, and it's cold, so best to stay inside and write - much more fun ... and much safer. ;)

Hope you have a great week,

Kirsten Bett said…
What a great blog Eden, only just read it today as I am playing catch up. I love how you described your dream, felt like the beginning of a story to me and I also loved your explanation at the end.

I have always written, I wrote obnoxious pieces as a small child about how mothers should not wear mini skirts (What? I blame my sunday school teacher, I mean no normal 7-year old would think of that...) and my first poem that was luckily much better not too long after. I write because I understand the world better if I do. I think that's my most simple answer, though I love yours too.

I have not yet published anything more than a short story and a poem in an anthology but I am getting there, because I want to share my stories and I want to write because there's nothing better than being in the flow of writing and realising you are getting somewhere.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Kirsten,
Thanks for commenting! I know what you mean about playing catch-up, but no problem at all.

Yours is a great reason to write, and I hope you continue to stay in the flow. It is a fabulous feeling when it happens.


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