*This is part of an occasional series called “Why I Write” which asks writers of all styles and backgrounds to explain what keeps them writing*
by Jessica Piscitelli Robinson
I write to be heard. I didn’t always know that, but it’s something I have learned about myself over the years. I have something to say and I want people to hear it.
Of course, writing is probably not the best approach if you actually want to get people’s attention. Acting, politics, reality TV are all faster and, in some cases easier, ways of getting through to more people. But that wasn’t my calling. I started writing as soon as I learned to write.
I was always a quiet person and I grew up in a less than quiet world. I am the youngest of three siblings and, though my brother and sister aren’t the loudest people, since they were older, they were heard more in my household than I ever was. In school, I was never popular and always felt nervous about speaking up in class because I was afraid I would be teased for it, not without reason. In romance, I made the mistake early on of staying quiet whenever my boyfriend did something mean or hurtful. Everyone around me was always making themselves heard, and I was just taking all my thoughts, holding them inside, and then putting them on paper.
Now, it may sound like I spent all that time writing in my journal and nothing else, but that’s not what I mean when I say writing. (Although, trust me, I have volumes of journal entries – many more than Anais Nin ever wrote, though, not nearly as interesting.) I went through that weird phase, from about 8 years old until about 22, when I thought I could be a poet, but quickly (in relative terms) gave up on that when I realized my poetry sucks. I wrote short stories, some actually pretty good, until I was a junior in high school and fell in love with the screenplay, and focused more on that for several years. I never stopped writing short stories, I still love them, and they are, by definition, short, so I can always crank one out and then get back to my current project, which, these days, is novel writing.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was talking to a friend of mine about building my writing platform, that I realized why I write. She asked me, “What are you trying to say with your writing?” No one had ever asked me anything like that before and it stopped me in my tracks. What was I trying to say? Was I trying to say something? And then it hit me, yes, I was, I was trying to say a lot.
Being quiet, being a good listener, you learn about people and the world and you can see things sometimes I think louder people don’t get a chance to see. It’s almost like living life as a spy, except not as cool.
Each story I write is based on observation, and, let’s face it, fantasy. I can’t truly know what is happening inside the minds of the people around me, but I can, and often do, guess. And that’s what I write. What I think happens in the world. Some of it is positive, some negative, some just downright funny. But the idea is to reveal a part of a person, a character, or a subject, in a way that other’s haven’t thought about it before. Here is my thought on the subject. Here is my idea for what happens in this situation. Here is what I have to say.
I write to be heard because I believe I have something to say. Hopefully, one day, people will listen, and will like what they hear, or, at the very least, will learn something new. And in that way, maybe, my little voice won’t feel so quiet.
Jessica Piscitelli Robinson is the founder of the storytelling performance troupe Better Said Than Done. She also writes a blog about the trials and tribulations of being a struggling writer at jessicapiwriting.wordpress.com.