Why do I write? Well, for starters, it’s crucial for my job. I can’t imagine being an ELA (English/Language Arts) teacher and not being a writer any more than I can imagine being an ELA teacher and not being a reader. In my book (wink, wink), they go hand in hand.
But there’s more to it than that. (There’d have to be, or this would be the lamest post ever.)
Allow me to reflect.
Rewind to Christmas 1977…the year I received my first diary.
It was very classy looking: ruby red padded “leather”, gold edged pages, gold plated lock, and two keys. I recorded the “important” events of each day. At the ripe old age of 11, my entries were filled with slumber parties (sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night, creating dance routines to popular songs, and taking posed “cheerleader formation” pictures), recess (playing kickball, tetherball, or making snow forts), and the occasional rant (friends who had copied my hairstyle or friends who left me out). Not proud, just sayin’.
My second diary had a hard, shiny white cover, with a goofy little character on the outside, and some cutsie little saying. (Neither of which were memorable, apparently). The year was 1979 and included my transition from elementary school to junior high. Kind of a big deal. The entries became a bit more serious, because boys entered the picture (KA + MS, SK + TG, MM + KS, and JZ + KS), a la carte complicated lunch time (pizza, hot dogs, shakes and french fries?), and I was thrown into the competitive world of honor rolls, cheerleading, basketball, track and symphony orchestra.
Those diaries remained tucked away in my nightstand for a very long time. (Although occasionally, I’d pull them out and relive the good old days.) And then, one day, around 20 years ago, I decided to “get rid of the evidence”. The evidence of what, I’m not sure. But for some reason, I ripped out the pages, tore them into tiny little pieces, and tossed them in the garbage.
I regret that decision. A lot. (I have no idea what I was thinking.)
In high school, I wrote poetry. Many nights I’d toss and turn in bed, my mind spinning with words and phrases. Turning on my bedside lamp, I’d hastily scribble them down in a notebook. Although there were times I struggled to find the right word, or to create a phrase with the correct number of syllables, I for the most part, found the words to describe the feelings dwelling in my heart, and the thoughts resonating in my mind. Only when the words were printed on paper, could I find stillness and peace.
As a young stay-at-home mom, I enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature. I was mildly concerned my brain was going to turn to mush unless I used it. I purchased a “new fangled” typewriter, which allowed me to view an entire line of words on an itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny screen embedded above the keyboard. Once I deemed my words worthy, I’d hit “return”, and the words would be typed. Magical. Gotta love the technology of the mid 1990’s.
Throughout the course, I was challenged to work on the skills of a writer. Each time I completed an assignment, I mailed it to my mentor, who read it, critiqued it, and mailed it back to me. I managed to produce several short stories ready for publication, but was reluctant to take the next step out of fear of rejection. I hate rejection.
And then there were many years of not writing. Three kids born within 28 months will do that to you. Not a great excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.
When I emerged from the whirlwind of soccer and basketball and volleyball and track and religious education and piano and guitar and violin and viola and cello lessons, I discovered I had time to myself again.
So I returned to writing. At first it was in the form of a yearly Christmas “letter”. I was very creative…acrostics, limericks, number poems, crossword puzzles…you name it, I did it. All unique ways to recap the year of the Hovie family. I never wrote a letter from the viewpoint of the family dog, however. Maybe now that we have one, I could.
And then I got serious.
My first piece was intended for an audience of one. Me. I felt compelled to put my story into words, and put my past struggles to rest once and for all. I desperately wanted…needed, to move on.
So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It took weeks of pouring over old journals and other written records. I relived each and every painful, embarrassing moment. But once I had it down on paper, I felt at peace. I felt closure.
And there it sat, tucked away safe and sound in my computer.
Then one day, I was shocked to read a FB post of a friend from high school who had bravely bared her soul, explaining her “absence” from social media to friends and family. As I read, I thought about the extent to which her honesty would benefit others. I greatly admired her before, but my respect for her grew exponentially after reading her story. I could not imagine the courage it took for her to share.
Coincidentally, about a month later, a member of my church, who happened to be a local Christian radio DJ, provided the message one Sunday. I have no recollection of what his message was, but I clearly remember his story. He too shared his struggles. It wasn’t pretty, but it was honest. And guess what? I didn’t think any less of him. Instead of judging him for his past, I was amazed at who he had become, and inspired to make changes in my own life.
At this point, I understood my story could benefit others. But, I would need to take a huge risk. Was I brave enough to share my less than perfect life? Was I willing to start some uncomfortable conversations?
In May of 2014, despite many misgivings, I took the plunge.
A blog was born.
At first I wrote fast and furious, posting 2-3 times a week.
To an audience of maybe 10.
I was hesitant to publicize beyond the blogging community, as I felt I was coming out of the closet with some big, dark secret. It took a huge leap of faith to even link my posts to my FB and Twitter accounts. Heaven forbid people that I actually knew would read what I had written. Writing for strangers felt so much more comfortable.
For a while, I got caught up in the “followers” and “page views” aspect of it all. I was over the moon when Gena Hamshaw, a nutritional counselor, and author of the successful blog The Full Helping, featured my recovery story on her blog. Talk about instant publicity.
And then, over the course of the past 6 months so, I’ve done some soul searching.
Why am I writing?
First and foremost, I enjoy the process. I love the satisfaction of working through the writing process. I don’t write because it’s easy. Because it’s not. I actually dread the drafting process, but I love revising and editing. I love researching. I love deciding what stays and what goes. I love searching for the perfect word. I love crafting sentences. I write because it makes me feel good when I’m done. (Kinda like running, actually.)
I write because it allows me to connect with others. I am not an outwardly warm, bubbly, charismatic person. In all honesty, I see myself as subdued, especially around those I don’t know well. I’m sure at times, this comes off as being aloof. This is all due to my own insecurities. Sharing my writing provides an opportunity for others to get to know me. You know, the Karen on the inside. (Just a sidebar here, I hesitated entering the blogging world because I was afraid of receiving nasty comments. Rather ironic, since comments are few and far between. I crave more interaction…I want to build a community…I love your comments…many inspire future posts! Please comment!)
I write because I love to learn. Writing often requires research. I need to be aware of differing viewpoints. I need to know which experts have my back when sharing my beliefs. Writing requires me to be critical of what’s “out there”. I can’t rest upon what I know. I always feel a need to know more.
Finally, it’s about making a difference. Someone once wrote, “If I can just make a difference in the life of one person, sharing my story will have been worth it.” (Yeah, that someone was me.)
So, it’s not about the number of followers I have. It’s not about the number of page views a post gets. It’s not even about becoming rich and famous, and quitting my day job.
It’s about doing something that gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It’s about sharing with others. It’s about becoming a more educated person. It’s about trying to make a difference in the world.
And for these reasons, I write.