Here is the first post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. Check out Susanna’s website at www.susannahill.com, visit her blog at http://www.susannahill.blogspot.com, or even send her an email to [email protected].
WHY BECOME A WRITER?
By: Susanna Leonard Hill
Once upon a time, a little girl loved to write. She lay on the kitchen floor with scrap paper – the blank back sides of legal document drafts (her parents were lawyers) – and a blue-green Crayola (not the green-blue one!) and asked her mom how to spell the words she didn’t know… which was most of them 🙂 Her mom was patient, and the little girl was determined, and word by word, her stories took shape. She wrote about whispering under the covers with her sister. She wrote about a fight with her best friend. She wrote about a girl and a witch. She wrote about the day her cat died. And somewhere along the line, when she found out it was a thing you could be, the little girl began to dream of becoming a writer…
If you’re a writer, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a once upon a time like that… or some variation thereof 🙂
And, if you’re a writer, you probably already know that on certain levels, a writer isn’t something you become. It’s something you are. For most of us who write, writing is so much a part of us that we can’t imagine not doing it. It’s more a question of what we’ll write than whether we’ll write.
From journaling for our own personal satisfaction to writing bestsellers that will be printed tens of thousands of times in numerous languages, there is joy in finding the right words. There is meaning in telling stories that touch the truth of those things we all have in common. There is understanding to be found in writing through the hard times – self-doubt, misunderstanding, loss, death.
If you’re a writer, there’s a big difference between knowing it yourself and proclaiming it to the rest of the world. It takes courage to say, “I am a writer.”
But it takes courage to do most things that are worthwhile.
If you’re a writer, you might never make a million dollars.
But you may write stories that help others feel valued, accepted, understood, confident, not alone. You can make that kind of magic.
If you’re a writer, your work is a piece of your soul. By putting it out into the world, you risk it getting stomped on.
But the words you put out there might change someone’s life.
Sometimes you have to take a deep breath…
… and jump!
Writing is about shared experience, connectedness, finding a way to acknowledge, embrace, and express the essential parts of life that are common to us all.
The little girl on the kitchen floor knew what it was about long before she could articulate it. It was right there in the stories she wrote: family and friendship, love and loss, imagination and dreams.
And yet if you ask anyone who writes what the hardest thing they do is, they’ll probably tell you it’s writing 🙂 There’s a reason there are so many famous quotes along the lines of Red Smith’s “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein!”
Writing takes actual, physical effort. It’s hard to find the perfect words. It’s hard to find a way to say what’s in your heart.
But it’s important, because if it’s in your heart, it’s certainly in someone else’s. And maybe you can find the way to say it so it makes sense to them.
Writing is a labor of love, no matter how you do it or who you do it for.
We all have stories to tell.
Some of us paint them with a brush on canvas.
Some of us sing them in major or minor keys with three verses and a chorus.
Some of us dance them with grace and power, leaping and gliding across a stage.
Some share their stories over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table with friends or family.
And some of us write.
If you’re a writer, you have a gift.
Don’t let practicality or fear or the opinions of others stand in your way.
Share it 🙂
Susanna Leonard Hill grew up in New York City with her mom and dad, one sister and two brothers, and an assortment of cats. She went to the Brearley School for K – 12, then received her B.A. in English and Psychology from Middlebury College. She then went on to get her M.A. and M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology and Special Education of Children With Learning Disabilities from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
She worked for many years teaching dyslexic students, but stopped after her third child was born. Now she spends her time being a mom, writing, and visiting schools whenever she gets the opportunity.