As a child, I loved to write, and the adults in my life thought this was wonderful. Everyone sees the potential in a child who loves to write and read. Both interests are to be celebrated and encouraged. When I was a teenager, this encouragement started to wane. My family, my schoolteachers, in fact anyone I mentioned wanting to be a writer to, seemed to think I would need a Plan B. Eventually, I grew used to this. The big smiles and pats on the back I had received as a story writing child, had turned into raised eyebrows and questions about real jobs. As I continued into my adult life, squeezing writing into my existence whenever and however I could, I often came across the same question from those who did not understand. Why?
Why do you write? What are you writing for? What are you writing about? Why?
It was always so hard to explain. But now I think I truly know why.
It is of course, largely out of my control. Not entirely a decision, but something inside of me that simply makes me who I am. It’s a craving and a thirst and a longing and an addiction. I am full of stories and people and I am unable to turn any of them off. I have always had a fondness for words and a fascination with people.
But it’s more than that as well. The reason I write now is the same reason I wrote when I was a child. When I was a child, if you had asked me at a very tender age, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a dog. I loved dogs and pretended to be one, enjoyed reading about them, and as soon as I could, I started writing about them. All my early stories were about dogs. I got to live my dreams and play out my fantasies through writing. In my stories, I could be a dog if I wanted to be. I could explore how it felt to have four furry legs, a wagging tail and sad brown eyes. In my stories, I could be a girl who found a dog and hid it, kept it against all odds. I could be a dog rescuer. I could invent lives and homes and friendships for these dogs. Realising this, fuelled my addiction and my joy and I rushed home to my notebook and pen throughout my childhood and into my teens.
In my teens, my interests changed. My reading habits expanded. My writing mirrored my reading, with The Outsiders and Catcher In The Rye inspiring my own gritty stories of teenage friendship and drama. I was an introverted teenager, but through writing I could explore other personalities. I could invent teenagers who were wild, reckless and in trouble. I could create the kind of friendships I longed for in real life. I could throw drama after drama at them and help them battle through it. It was during my teens that I truly fell in love with the characters I created. To me, they were, and still are, entirely real.
Throughout my life, writing has given me an extended life. Many lives. I have not just been me. I have not just lived an ordinary life, but I have lived extraordinary ones as well. I have not just been myself, I have been many other people. I have lived in the past and in the future. I have been female and male. Straight and gay. White and biracial. Young and old. I have been evil, controlling and destructive. Manipulative, selfish and damaged. I have been frightened, hunted and owned. I have been brave, reckless and violent. I have ended lives and saved them. I have climbed inside these skins, walked around in them, breathed in them, become them.
To be a writer is to explore humanity and to invent stories. Everywhere you turn, there are untold stories, unnoticed lives. To be a writer, means that no experience is truly dull, sad or wasted. To be a writer, means that anything can be used and spun out into something new.
So why do I write? For all of these reasons. Because I am not just me. And I never will be.
Tjis post is brought to you by Chantelle Atkins.