Why I Write


When I was in third grade, I won a writing contest for our area. It had been a class assignment to write a story and include an illustration or two. My story was a creation based on the beloved tall-tale of Paul Bunyan. I wrote about his son, whom I think I named Tom, and I incorporated Babe the Blue Ox. My teacher entered it in the state-wide contest…and I soon found myself on a college campus at the Nebraska Young Author’s Conference with other elementary students. Coming from a small town, it was daunting at first, but I quickly learned these were my people. And I remember that day very well.

We started the morning listening to speakers, and I was in awe of one middle school age girl who was a published author. Then we were split into groups and took turns reading our stories. A teacher walked my group through a writing exercise, and we workshopped a new story where everyone suggested the wildest ideas and craziest storylines. I don’t recall what our story was about – I just remember we were all laughing so hard at the end. We spent the afternoon talking about favorite books and authors. These were definitely my people: Writers.

So I kept writing. I wrote lots of stories throughout elementary and middle school both as class assignments and on my own. I wrote for and then helped edit our high school literary magazine. I submitted poems for our college literature publication. Even though I majored in biology, I ended up with a minor in English thanks to all the lit and writing classes I added to my schedule each semester. I simply loved to read and write.

I still do love to read and write, but for the last 15 years, most of my writing has been patient notes and evaluations. Not incredibly exciting. In fact, insurance companies frown upon wordy therapy reports. Short and concise, precise and direct writing is what they prefer. I won’t hold it against them too much. But I kept writing on my own. Why?

Every writer, whether they are just starting out or seasoned, should read “Why I write” by Terry Tempest Williams. It’s a short essay with nearly every line beginning “I write because/as/with…” One of my favorite college professors had us read it out loud, going around the room sentence by sentence. The list of reasons is long and wonderful, but not exhaustive. I like his final line best, “I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.”

I write for my children. I write my stories and articles as if talking to them. They are my audience both now and for the future. They often read what I write for The Military Mom Collective, and they offer suggestions about what I should write about next. They know I’m writing a book, slowly and steadily. They ask me all the time about my characters, who they are, and what will happen to them at the end of the story. Someday I hope they will be my first readers.

In “Shelf Life” by Gary Paulson, he writes, “Books saved my life. First reading them, then writing them.” He walked away from a military career one day because as he says, he just had to write. That was the only thing he wanted to do: write. And although he struggled for years to make ends meet, he became a prolific and successful author. We read his last published book recently in his memory and loved every chapter, as we do with all his writing.

I write because I am our family story teller. My children ask every night for one or two or ten bedtime stories. When they were tiny, they wanted me to make up tales about dinosaurs and Star Wars and ducks. These days, they want real stories from the past about family members or of themselves. And I tell them all that I remember mostly because I love seeing their faces as I describe the funny details or impersonate a relative in the story. One day, we will write them down.

Anne Lamottt’s “Bird by Bird” should also be required for every writer, regardless of where they are in their writing journey. I often use her bird-by-bird tactic when I am stumped for ideas and just can’t formulate a thought, let alone a paragraph. She says, “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part.” And she would know.

I write to be a part of a community. During the spring of 2020 when I found myself home full-time with four kids who were supposed to be doing school virtually, I was searching for something to connect with people and use my brain. A friend suggested I submit an essay to a website for mothers after she read something I had written on social media (it was a well-worded and humorous rant I had posted, to be honest). So I wrote and they accepted my article. And the next one. And the next. I suddenly became a part of an on-line community of writers and mothers. Later, when I stepped into writing for The Military Mom Collective, I was thrilled to add MILITARY families as part of my virtual writing circle.

This is a community I didn’t know existed and I didn’t realize I needed, but I am forever grateful I got to be a part of it. Writers are my people. Readers are my people. Open-minded and big-hearted people are my people.

Thank you for letting me write for The Military Mom Collective.