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Celebrate Writing: Why I Write

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The U.S. Senate has proclaimed today the third annual National Day on Writing, an event originally created by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to promote the importance of writing -- not just to those of us who make our living by writing, but to all of us in our everyday lives.

This year, the National Writing Project has joined in the celebration, along with numerous other educational blogs and news outlets, asking people to share the reasons why they write. You can follow along the #whyiwrite hashtag on Twitter, and you're encouraged to contribute your own essays, tweets, and blog posts.

Here's Audrey's contribution:

As someone who writes daily -- and writes a lot -- I'm often asked about the "how" not the "why" of my work. Namely, "How do you write so much?" The question makes me chuckle because I distinctly remember being a PhD student working on a dissertation and having these overwhelming, fearful feelings: How will I ever write enough? Are my ideas any good? What if I fail? What if I have nothing important to say?

I think there's something about staring at the blank word processing screen that elicits these feelings in almost all writers. Unlike standing in front of a class full of students or a room full of co-workers -- who nod (and true, nod off) and smile (or sleep) and ask questions (or stare silently) -- the blank page can be strangely more intimidating. There isn't the immediacy or the feedback when you write like there is when you speak.


For some people, that might make writing easier than speaking. You can stew on your ideas alone, crafting them until the words and the phrasing and the arguments are "just right."

But writing always has an audience, even if you never plan to share your writing with others. And for me, I write not just because clearly I love to and I have a lot to say. I write to engage with my readers.

I think that's one of the things that makes blogging far easier for me than dissertating (I never finished that dissertation after all). It isn't simply that the articles I write now contain fewer references to complicated theorists or fiercely-contested academic debates (although there's no escaping the years of academic training that make me want to make these sorts of often obscure allusions in my work). It's that it's much easier to hit "publish" and to get immediate feedback from readers everywhere.

I write because I love to write. I always have. But I write daily and I write extensively because I have observations and arguments to make and stories to share. I write online because I know there's an audience who can find and read what I have to say. Unlike writing essays for school (that just one professor reads) and unlike writing in academic journals (that maybe a handful of professors read), writing online means my work is available widely. I write, and hopefully people respond.

I think that exchange of ideas is important. Writing is my craft, true. But writing is also how I get to communicate. I'm thankful I get to write for a living. But I'm even more thankful that when I stare at a blank empty page now, I can more easily imagine an audience of readers who'll engage with what I've penned.