Tell Me Your Why

By Jayne Bodell

I have no passion to write. I do not write every day like all the experts tell us fledgling writers to do. I still struggle with even calling myself a writer. So why do I write?

At our last family dinner, my son-in-law shared information about a book he had just read. The point of the book was that most successful business people know what and how they produce, but the great ones will also tell you why they do what they do.

“For the money” is usually the first answer that comes to mind when answering why. The answer goes deeper than that.

My number one reason for writing is that I like the feeling of having a finished product.

Forget the process; that’s hard work. And it’s even harder to find the motivation to do the work, much less do the work every day. When you put the finishing touches on that final piece that is ready to post on your blog, send to your client, or submit for publication – that feeling is unique to writing.

For a brief moment, everything is right with the world. That’s the best way to describe it. You’ve worked hard to put all the pieces of the word puzzle together to create a cohesive piece of prose. You’ve edited until you’re satisfied with every word, well, almost satisfied. Every writer knows that the urge to edit never goes away. Then, when you’re finally ready to release your darling, you get to feel it. A peaceful wave of – yes! I can do this.

I am nothing if not practical, which leads me to the second reason I write.

In case something happens to my full-time job, I have a backup plan. It’s as simple as that. The fantasy version is walking into my boss’s office and announcing that I quit, and I’m my own boss now.

Writing is a skill like anything else in the business world, and I want to feel confident that I can use that skill when pursuing another career. Until I make that leap to full-time writer, I want to take baby steps to build my confidence and make a little extra money along the way. Can you tell I don’t like to jump into things?

In the process of following my plan, I discovered a wonderful benefit to writing. Let’s explore my reason number three:

This creative outlet helps alleviate my depression and anxiety. I decided years ago that I wanted to manage my mild depression using outlets besides medication. When I started to write, I realized that I get the same feeling I do when I clean. By cleaning, I put things in order. It’s a piece of my world that I can control. Depression and anxiety appear when I feel out of control. Writing takes this jumble of ideas swimming around in my brain and puts them into words that make sense. The chaos is harnessed.

Writing as a remedy for depression is a double-edged sword, though. The reason I don’t write every day is because I usually don’t feel like writing. It is often a battle to park my butt in a chair and write 500 words. In my defense, I do work a full-time job, so my writing time is limited.

Shortly after realizing that writing helps my depression, I found this self-help book on my Kindle that I had downloaded over a year ago and never read. I tend to do that when the books are free. The two authors explained how creativity leads to a happier life, and then they provide the steps to take to find and cultivate that creativity. Usually, I don’t put much stock in these self-help books, but I did finish this one because I realized that I was proof of what they were saying.

The day after our family dinner, I found this quote from Tennessee Williams. “Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory.”

I’m not sure I can answer as succinctly as Williams, but after my exercise in self-exploration, I’ll give it a shot.

In our careers, we’re advised to develop an elevator speech to answer the question, “What do you do?” Let’s apply the same principle only answer the question why. I’ve given three practical reasons as to why I write.  But I think we’ve got to dig deeper. What is that inner drive that forces you to put words on paper? Can you put it into words? This should be a walk in the park for us writers, right?

 My ‘Elevator Speech‘ for why I write, in twenty-five plus thirteen words or less:

I love puzzles. To me, words are pieces to a giant jigsaw puzzle.  I start with an outline and fill in the picture, testing, discarding, testing again trying to make the word pieces fit together to create something worthy of reading. For a shorter elevator ride, “Writing is a puzzle that I love to solve.” Take that Tennessee Williams! This is poster worthy.

I’m not sure that knowing the “why” will make you become a great business person any more than having an elevator speech will ensure a job offer, but I think it will make you a better writer. Knowing the why helps you articulate your thoughts, develop your voice, and gives you confidence. Explore the reasons why you write and see if you can write, in 25 words or less, your “why” elevator speech. Then cut it down to one sentence as I did. You may discover things about yourself in the process, but more importantly, you’ll learn how to pick only the words you need to convey your meaning, and for a short time, everything will feel right with the world.


Author’s Bio:

Jayne

Jayne Bodell graduated from UW-Madison with an English degree many, many years ago. About two years ago, she renewed her interest in writing by starting a blog about grammar but soon realized that she wanted to expand her subject matter. She now blogs about keeping life simple, smart, and sassy at www.JayneBodell.com. In between blog posts, she’s planning to branch into the scary world of writing fiction by writing a collection of flash fiction stories.
Jayne lives in Wisconsin and fills her spare time with gardening, photography, knitting, reading, and a side of coloring. Her favorite way to vacation is to pick a general destination and drive, no time constraints and no plans.

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S.W. Biddulph

Scott Biddulph is a published writer, author, and poet from North Georgia. He began writing as a youngster and followed his lifelong dream of reaching people through the written word when he returned to The University of North Georgia in 2013 to finish earning his BA/English with a concentration on publication and creative writing. His publications include the following: an eBook, Apples of Gold: A collection of inspirational short stories and poems (Smashwords, 2010) and a paperback, Voices from the Heart, (Createspace, 2012). His poetry is published in Papers and Publications Undergraduate Research Journal. Vol 3 (2014) and the award-winning Chestatee Review (Spring, 2015), among other places (Check his LinkedIn profile for a full list of his publications). He is currently working on publishing poetry, creative non-fiction, academic essays, and his memoir. ******** Scott has also worked as an intern editor for the University of North Georgia Press. As a freelance editor, he has done the layout and design of several books and magazines. He is currently working with several authors on various publication projects in which he is either ghostwriting, editing manuscripts, or doing the layout and design of their books. ******** Finally, and most importantly, he is a father, grandfather, husband, and dedicated Harley Davidson rider. He and his family enjoy the beauty of the North Georgia Mountains where they live—especially their screened in back porch where they love to bird watch. ******** ~ "I love realism. I love writing about the raw, down-to-Earth, heartfelt realities of life. I love to write in a way that reaches into the human soul—to take the greatest pains and struggles in life, and make them a blessing to others. Fantasy is a wonderful, interesting thing—but real-life situations, feelings, fears, and dreams are an unexplored ocean of stories that need to be told." ~ ~Scott Biddulph~

10 comments

  1. What I like to say my “why” is: Because I love to create worlds. Sometimes I look at my novels and think “These characters are made of words and paper”. That’s dumbfounding, because to me, they are alive. And I too feel the most incredible satisfaction from typing THE END.

    What my “why” really is: Because the voices and plots in my head won’t leave me alone until I bring them to life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Jayne, welcome to the community! I found your post unique towards the craft of writing. A finished product also gives me a sense of accomplishment. Belonging to this community motivates and inspires me such as your work here. I took the liberty of visiting your website. For someone who is not passionate about writing, my goodness you have written quite a lot! 🙂 I appreciate how you described the why. It caused me to rethink my reasons to write. Thank you for your contribution. I look forward to learning more from you in the future. John.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jayne – Thank you for this post and for your raw honesty! As writers, we are often told we should write for the sake of writing. I personally don’t see the point in that – I want to share mine 🙂 Although I do know my WHY, I am just beginning to study the benefits of writing – thank you for highlighting some of those in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, Jayne. Thanks for writing this for Two Drops of Ink. The way in which a writers uses our common denominator, words, is what makes us all think, and in this case, it’s the “why”. I am like you, in that the finished product gives me a sense of completion – not just for the piece, but settles free-floating anxieties. In my case, since the medications were what prompted people to intervene on me and began my journey to recovery, I had to find other methods for dealing with them.

    Writing does alleviate the negative feelings, puts the mental and emotional houses in order, and forces me to make sense of the jumble.

    Great advice, memoir, and reflecting. I appreciate those qualities in a piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jayne,
    I love this piece. It is so good to know the why of our writing. I like that you use yours as medication. That works for me too! Somehow pouring it onto a page in some sense of order makes my thoughts less overwhelming. It is the same reason I make lists! I will have to think of my 25 word why. My immediate thought is…I write because I will die if I don’t. 🙂 Welcome to Two Drops of Ink!

    Liked by 2 people

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