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by Patricia Fry

Why Do We Write?

While attending a Pen Women’s Writers’ Conference in Honolulu several years ago as a workshop leader, I had the pleasure of meeting women and a few men from all walks of writing life. I listened to women describe their passion for writing. I read some of the words that came from their hearts. And I discovered something about myself: I’ve forgotten the joy of writing just for me. I’ve been a hardcore career writer for so many years that I can scarcely recall the process of writing from the heart and the feelings that this activity evokes.

I must admit that, when I first heard these women talking about the little ditties they had written or expressing delight because the local newspaper had published their poems, I was less than impressed. But the more I listened, the more I came to understand. They are not writing to earn a living, to make a name for themselves or to pen a bestselling novel. They are writing to fill their souls, to renew their spirits. These women are inspired, but not by fame and fortune; not by a desire to sell their work. No, it would be like selling their soul. These women are me thirty years ago.

After finishing my humble pie, I began tuning into each of the women I had the pleasure of meeting at the conference. I listened, I learned and I felt. I met women who write as part of their healing process. One dear lady—a grieving widow—began to emerge into the daylight only after picking up her pen and pad again. Other women were writing as therapy for their physical illnesses. Some of the women I met wrote in hopes of helping others in some basic or deep manner. And one woman wrote solely to spread peace. I even met women who don’t do much writing. They just love being around writers.

On my way home on the plane the night after the conference (I accidentally booked myself a night flight), I thought about the women I’d met at the conference. I recalled being aware of their demeanor when they spoke of their latest writing project or the inspirational poem they wrote five years ago. What was it that I detected? Oh yes, now I know—it was joy. I tried to relate to them. I had to dig deep in order to locate that young, eager writer who experienced such joy even when writing something as mundane as a grocery list. Yes, she is still there waiting to feel from the writing again. I’ve located her and I’ve begun to nurture her. I want to be that writer again.

Is there any reason why we cannot write professionally and joyfully at the same time? I hope to find out. I’ve devised a list of activities and ideas that I believe will help me to recapture my ability to write at a soul level—to write for spirit.

If you’re a writer who is searching for his or her writer’s spirit—who can no longer find that original in your writing—here are some steps that might help:

1: Keep a journal even if it is a public journal (blog). Focus on your feelings and your more gentle thoughts. Experiment with poetry and other literary styles in order to draw out some of your long-hidden feelings. And then read your journal often for insight and to monitor your progress.

2: Write letters to your former self. By addressing that vulnerable, joyful writer, you will soon begin to understand her and emulate her.

3: Get creative with letters to friends and family. Rather than shooting off those quick cookie-cutter emails and handwritten notes to loved ones, take just a little extra time to compose them using some literary flair. Strive to paint pictures with your words rather than just stating facts. Have fun. Your friends and family will love it and so will you.

4: Write something just for fun. Forget about deadlines and other writing obligations. Pen a poem. Compose a story for your children or grandchildren. Try your hand at a piece of flash fiction or a sci fi story. Or just write something from the heart.

5: Write something from the heart for publication in a smaller magazine or website. You may be accustomed to writing major pieces on complicated issues. How about stirring up your creative juices by writing something highly inspirational?

6: Make cards and give them for special occasions. You can either purchase blank cards or make them yourself using any number of methods. Write personal poems for each recipient.

7: Go out and play. Don’t neglect your playful self. That child still exists within you or he/she should.

8: Meditate/pray. There is no better way to tune into yourself than through prayer or meditation.

9: Do something creative. Get involved in gardening, needlework, painting, sketching, photography or something that will fulfill your innate desire to be creative and pursue this activity at least a couple of times each week.

10: Either locate or establish a writers group. This group should have no purpose other than to provide encouragement and praise. This group should not be about publishing or critiquing, but only about fun, joy and the process of healing through writing.

I would love to hear from writers who have recaptured their joy as a writer or who have some additional ideas designed to get to that place.


Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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