The Nearly Life-Saving Reasons Why I Write

It is time to come clean and admit that one main motive for writing on here is self-serving. I have no shame in admitting this; writing is a lot like being on an airplane and putting on my oxygen mask before I can help those who cannot put on their oxygen masks. The wonderful writer, Esmé Wang, said it perfectly:

This is literally the motive that brings the majority of these posts to life.

Why I Write (1)

 

Take, for example, A Dumb Fallacy That Needs To Stop Being Popular or The Question About Black Lives That People Need to Stop Asking. Or even How To Be Racist And Have Black Friends At the Same Time. All of these posts were created out of a great deal of discomfort. All of them had me literally shaken to the core, my fingers trembling as I wrote them. In every post, I was upset though the posts did not fully show it. Posts like these come about when my exposure to the gaslighting of marginalized experiences is too much or witnessing arrogant apathy reaches an all-time high. Whenever this happens, I become overwhelmed.

Like a broken dam, my emotions rush in and consume me and my breathing becomes laborious. Instantly, my mind becomes flooded with thoughts in response to the haughty ignorance I witness. But as irony would have it, my writing is not primarily written for them; it is written for me. I should mention that the dam did not once hold water back; it held puzzle pieces, each one holding a fragment of my thoughts. But now that the dam is broken, the numerous puzzle pieces have scattered everywhere. And in order to feel whole again, to feel still in the midst of my trembling, I put the pieces together. I create the bigger picture. I write.

I write because talking to myself is considered culturally unacceptable. I write because I would rather sort out my thoughts alone first before I share them with other people.

Why I Write Pinterest

I write because it is an act of resistance, a labor that I must participate in for survival’s sake. I write because I need to remind myself that I am not delusional because society (and some people within it) say that I am. My life is my life. It is not a mental playground for anyone.

For me to take abstraction and turn it into something tangible, for me to verbalize my story or my way of thinking, back it up with sources, and/or sprinkle a bit of creative writing here and there — I can rest a little better. I can breathe a little easier. The oxygen mask is on. But it does not end there because this is not a diary or a personal journal that is without an audience.

I learn so much from you.

You put into words what I could not verbalize.

What you wrote helped me become a better person.

These are the words that are said to me that nearly bring tears to my eyes, words that calm the fear of being vulnerable on here. It is in the learning, the affirming, and the self-bettering that I help put the mask on those who share the above sentiments. And it is often that these same people who say those words have put the oxygen mask on me — allowing me to see from their vantage point, affirming my lived experiences, and showing me where I need to improve as a more loving human being.

This is why I am a fan of creative writers and the opinionated empaths, the ones who boldly share their stories and the ones who speak their truth to power. This is why I stan so hard for the prolific poets and phenomenal philosophers whose words are weapons and whose minds are brilliant, whose desire for a more just world drives them to think and create. While words can kill, they use their words in the fight for justice or in the fight for a planet that has access to more stories, creating a more holistic worldview.

It is in the exchange of the written word that writing becomes an ointment to our broken humanity. And even if the mending of wounds is not done on a large scale, we can rest easy knowing that we have done our part. Writing is a communal act of healing. And it feels so good to be part of it.

Why do you write? Is it something that you have always done? If you don’t write often, is it something you want to be more intentional about? Let me know in the comment section below.

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  • Wow, as a fellow blogger I totally identify! Especially the bit about trembling fingers. There have been many times when I’ve almost flinched pressing the “publish” button. My blog has a lot of vintage pretty things, but it’s the posts about hard topics, especially racial and cultural issues, that have me pretty terrified. But I want to be a part of it and to help change things for the better, so I figure it’s worth the risk. Leaders are just the ones willing to take the most hits for something they believe in and keep moving forward. Hopefully I can learn to take hits well and become one of those!

  • Mishell Elvira

    What a beautifully crafted post Mary. As a fellow writer, I can identify with the themes with many of themes you have addressed. Feeling silenced is something I am familiar with and writing has certainly been my own platform to control in a world that often wants to control me, control my story, control my thoughts. Writing, far from being simply a personal and therapeutic experience, is also a tool to revolutionise minds. I never thought of it quite like an oxygen mask, but it is. When I was younger, before blogging, I tried to articulate how writing made me feel. It sounded something like this: so long as I can articulate the narrative on a sheet of paper, it’s real, mine, and for me to mold. Writing is independence, and through meeting you and others on the blogosphere- it’s also community. Thank you for your piece.

  • Jen

    Beautifully written, Mary. You said it so clearly, writing IS like an oxygen mask. I too always breathe easier after I’ve written out my thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s about my day or a review of a book I just read, as long as I get it out, I’m me. Most writers hesitate with that ‘publish’ button, and I too find myself second guessing, wondering if what I said was ‘wrong’ or if I didn’t express myself the right way for that particular topic. But I realize that the times that I fear of feel nervous about what I’ve written, it usually a good sign, it means I wrote something from the heart and that felt true to me.

    As much as I believe writing to be individual pursuit, it should never be a fully selfish one, we often write so we don’t feel alone so the reader should be in mind, and thank you for bringing that up as we write not just for ourselves but for others. I’m saving your great piece to look up whenever I need a little boost of confidence whenever I begin to doubt myself as a writer. Thank you so much for this 🙂

  • Robin Michael Rush

    Keep writing–you have a voice that must be heard.

  • Talking about things that the majority would rather brush under the rug can be contentious for sure. I used to care so much about making sure that I don’t step on toes. I realized that many of those people who found talks of race “divisive” were white and I realized I was doing it to appease my white friends. Nowadays, I have stopped caring. I stopped caring awhile ago actually because it is not friendly to consider my real experiences debatable. My trembling fingers is a mix of anger and sadness but never fear of offending or “being divisive.”

    I think it is important to put the “taking hits” in perspective. You being a white woman who is empathetic and talks about these things will definitely be surprising to many other white people and, as such, they may react negatively to you. But for me to talk about it, not only do I get the negative reaction, I also feel the full throttle of someone gaslighting my real experiences and my personhood, the experiences of my family members, and the experiences of my dear black friends. That REALLY hurts and I have had to teach myself that their reaction does not determine the validity of my experiences. That is what makes the “hits” different for us. It’s been a growing experience for me and will continue to be a growing experience for the both of us in the respective ways it applies to us. As always, thank you for stopping by and commenting, Emileigh. 🙂

  • “Writing, far from being simply a personal and therapeutic experience, is also a tool to revolutionise minds.” THIS. THIS IS EVERYTHING. This is such a beautifully way to word my mission with Verily Merrily Mary. Stories from the mouths of the marginalized are protests to the status quo. They do not require picket signs; they require the reader to pay attention. And I love the community that can come about as a result of writing as you have mentioned. I think what makes it so meaningful for us as Women of Color and as TCKs is in what you wrote so eloquently about the sheet of paper: “it’s real, mine, and for me to mold.” It is revolutionary for us to declare that we own our narratives. And the more women of color and others who are in the margins are bold enough to share their narratives, the status quo is inevitably rocked. Thank you so much for your comment, Mishell!

  • I totally sympathize with the idea of things just need to get out. In the post, I mention it from the perspective of being a black woman. But yes, anything, be it a book I read, or a show that I watched that had a profound affect on me–it will be written.

    The last part of your comment literally made me put my hand on my chest and say “awww.” Jen, that is so incredibly meaningful to me. I am so glad that this post not only resonated with you, but acts as a point of positively when you doubt yourself. I wish you nothing but the best in your writing endeavors, Jen! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • Thank you, Robin. That really means a lot. <3

  • Much of what I write is what I needed someone to tell me when I was younger, but no one did. So I had to figure out stuff on my own that really, honestly, someone out there should have been saying. I write for the girl I used to be, for the woman I want to become, and for whatever I am in-between. I write because I don’t know how NOT to write.

    “I write because it is an act of resistance.”

    This speaks such truth to me. Obviously you and I have different backgrounds, and we experience oppression differently. But I am tired of having someone else attempt to tell my story. I am tired of not seeing myself represented in the media I consume. I write because my story matters. My experiences matter. My perspective matters. And no one can tell my story quite like I can.

  • That first paragraph. Brita, I empathize with that so much. Whether on here, in my drafts that may never be on my blog, or in my journal, so much of what I write is what I wished someone told me when I was a little girl. The woman I am today is what I wish I saw in someone else when I was younger. And that second part! Yes! I feel the same way. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Brita! 🙂