By: Shannon Hogan Cohen
I was sharing casual conversation over a cup of rosehip tea with tupelo honey,
when a new acquaintance asked me, “Why do you write?”
Suddenly, I felt something I thought was a little odd – an inability to respond
quickly or articulate an answer. Cutting the silence, my rushed reply was, “It
brings me joy.” I noticed the interest in her eyes fade and her focus wane, as she
continued sipping her steamy tea. My response must have seemed blasé. I tried
again. “I like to create a world with my words.” This answer seemed to grab her
attention; a bit of sparkle returned.
“So you write fiction?” she asked.
“Not exactly. I dabble in poetry but typically write narrative nonfiction. I enjoy
fact-based storytelling, similar to personal essays,” I explained.
“Oh, like memoirs,” she quickly stated.
“More like diary entries with elements of dysfunction and discovery,” I added,
attempting to evoke another emotional response and engage her enthusiasm.
We parted ways after an unfinished chat over our love of books, types of fictional
characters she connects with, and her new love interest – a poodle puppy she
named Fifi. With the talk of her poodle puppy, she reminded herself it was time to
pick Fifi up from her grooming appointment which left me drinking cold tea while
pondering the reasons why I write.
This afternoon chat was illuminating. Her question forced me to consciously
contemplate what motivates me to unveil my innermost thoughts and feelings. No
one had ever asked me why I write – only what I write.
I like details and, when speaking with others, I often feel rushed to find the right
words and explanations. This has always been a problem for me. Ever since I can
remember, I have had to hide my emotions and internal dialogue in order to
formulate an answer. Naturally this takes time, and I end up being pressured into
rushing my response. I determined this was the challenge I had describing my
affection for writing to my new friend.
My mental makeup prefers carefully selected words which, I believe, are the secret
to having profound, powerful dialogue and expressing great stories. This opposed
to rapid retorts that are often nerve-racking for me. Given the choice, I want to
write what I have to say – not speak it. That’s what makes me a writer.
Writing is an opportunity to have conversations with myself, at my pace. I
experience contentment when I am given the time to find the accurate words that
describe how I feel versus an immediate response just to fill space in a
Writing truly brings me joy. I feel fully alive when I write. My senses are ignited
and intensified. I discover creative courageousness inside. It is fun finding the
serenity within as I give meaning to jumbled thoughts, and I admire myself for
Writing is a platform for me to be me, without disguise. I am powerless when my
words are not expressed. The fear of people failing to understand the concealed me
can be damaging. I do not want to spend my life feeling rushed into reactive
replies. Writing allows me to edit my existence. In constructing a story, I seek to
reveal myself, I seek to be understood, and I seek to share.
Next time, I will tell my new friend that this is why I write.
Also Published at Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog on January 11, 2016:
First Published at Life As A Human on December 14, 2015: