Why We Write

March 14, 2008

Why We Write – Number 52: Reader-Submitted Essay

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charlie Craig @ 5:41 pm
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Number 52

Today’s piece is written by Natasha Costa, a reformed reporter.

One of the first clear memories I have is of reading.

When I was about two years old I went through that “why?” phase that so many children have, and my parents always, without fail, pulled out the encyclopedia set they’d spent so much money on and had me sound out what I was asking about.It was all very exciting back then; first came the ABC song and then learning how to string letters together.  I would ask a why and my parents would help me sound out what I was looking for and then sit me in front of that set of encyclopedias and I would pour through them for hours.  I would get distracted; when you start out looking for milk and then see an entry on mammary glands it tends to happen. From there you go to nipples and uterus and sexual reproduction (I knew where babies came from long before my parents ever had The Talk with me. Thank you, encyclopedia set).

It’s a small step to go from reading to writing.  I remember being very young – maybe five or six – and being given a new notebook for school.  Instead of taking it to school like I was supposed to, I filled those pages with painstakingly etched words with my pencil.  They weren’t so much stories back then; more like me stretching my writers wings.  I tested sentences out, and before long I realized I could string together those sentences into one cohesive paragraph. 

I still didn’t make the connection between writing those sentences and paragraphs with story creation.  I was too busy reading books to think of writing my own; I started with the encyclopedias and went on to the very popular Goosbumps books, and from there the Baby Sitter’s Club.  Eventually children’s literature bored me; it was at this point that I began giving my teachers regular heart attacks because I was bringing books to school like Stephen King’s It, and John Grisham’s A Time To Kill.  I was in third grade at this point.  My born-again Christian aunt swore I was the child of the Devil when she caught me with a copy of Carrie.

Fourth grade brought with it promise; I learned double-digit multiplication, and more importantly, I was introduced to the idea of writing stories of my own. 

My fourth grade teacher wanted us to write something.  A short story, she said.  I’d done those assigned essays before, of course, but I had never once thought that actual stories were within my own grasp.  That was something other people did. 

Suddenly a whole huge world was open to me.  When the short story was finished, she said, she would actually get one of the students’ parents to help bind little books together, using art we had actually made for the cover (laminated, on tabloid-sized sheets of paper.  I still have mine, incidentally).  I threw myself to the project with gusto and I unintentionally recreated several scenes from Firestarter, one of the few Stephen King books I had not read at that point.  I severely disturbed my teacher, but I was hooked.  That little machine-sewn set of papers with my words and drawings on it gave me something of a jump-start, and from then on my parents had a hard time getting me to stop writing long enough to do my schoolwork. 

Being ten years old and rather unimaginative, I started writing fanfiction.  I did not know that it was called that back then, of course, but I wrote to fandoms at a frantic pace bordering on obsession – particularly Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series and anything involving Star Trek.  I never told anyone I was writing, and at one point I was so ashamed of the stories that I burned all of my notebooks and buried the ashes in our back yard. 

It wasn’t until I got to high school that I found a friend who also liked to write as much as I did, and we started comparing notes.  He told me I had talent; it was the first words of encouragement I’d ever had in the writing realm, and it was as addictive as heroin.  Not that I believed him, of course!  No, no, good writing, in my mind, was beyond my reach.  The trick was to make whoever was reading your stuff think you were good.  It didn’t occur to me then that that is exactly what the majority of good writers do in real life.

I was still writing fanfiction then.  My friend asked me to read one of his original stories and it was just like I was back in fourth grade all over again – I could write something completely original?  You’ve gotta be shitting me! 

That was nine years ago.  I still write fanfiction, and I still write original fiction, and I still cling to the hope that some day I’ll be able to make a good living at this.  For a while I wrote for a newspaper and it brought a glow to my face – I was living something of a dream, having people read my words and laugh at all the right moments.  Even better that I was getting money for it.  Holy shit – money, just for writing!

But see, now that I’ve had a taste of it, of what it’s like to really do it, I want more.  And so every day, I get on my laptop and I stare at the screen and I write, for as long as I can bear to.  It doesn’t matter what I write – fanfiction, original fiction, poetry, essays, anything, so long as I am producing written work.  And some day, I’ll get back there again. 

So for me, it’s a toss-up.  I write because I love to read my words on paper, just like I love reading others’ words on paper.  I also write because of the hope.  I guess it’s sort of like why rednecks buy lottery tickets, or why people pray – it’s that hope.  The hope that something amazing will happen to you, something life-altering.  Whatever it is, we know that we’ll never be the same after it happens.

Why do I write?  You might as well ask me why do I have hopes, or dreams?  Why do I breathe?  The answer is very clear – I write because I am human.  

 

 

WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers.  Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers.  If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at whywewrite@gmail.com.

12 Comments »

  1. [...] got a submission posted to Why We Write today. You can find it in my essays section, or here, on the Why We Write [...]

    Pingback by Nights With Bright Lights » Blog Archive » On Writing — March 14, 2008 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

  2. Someone once told me, “it’s so great you write because you enjoy it.”

    This struck me.

    I said, “I don’t write because its just another enjoyable hobby. I write because I need to.”

    Comment by Jacqueline — March 16, 2008 @ 8:30 am | Reply

  3. thanks my friends .. i hope you keep nice posting in your blog ..

    nice comment Jacqueline

    Comment by www.smasra.com — March 17, 2008 @ 7:02 am | Reply

  4. I write because I must.
    WC

    Comment by writerchick — March 22, 2008 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  5. I love your reasons.

    Comment by rdl — March 27, 2008 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  6. great stuff!

    Comment by טכנאי מחשבים — July 8, 2009 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  7. hi! how can i submit my own article here? I want to share my thoughts :)

    Comment by UFC 101 Live Stream — August 6, 2009 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

  8. “write because I need to” it’s a bad reason!

    Comment by green tea products — September 1, 2009 @ 8:10 am | Reply

  9. Great essay!

    Comment by Comment No. Whatever — January 16, 2010 @ 9:06 am | Reply

  10. [...] Reading has been my hobby and writing came along with it  coincidently. Now I enjoy writing. I might not be a very good writer but I’m just giving it a shot. My sole purpose of writing is to get myself better at this and to upgrade my intellect by reading many blogs. Number 52Today’s piece is written by Natasha Costa, a reformed reporter.One of the first clear memories I have is of reading.When I was about two years old I went through that “why?” phase that so many children have, and my parents always, without fail, pulled out the encyclopedia set they’d spent so much money on and had me sound out what I was asking about.It was all very exciting back then; first came the ABC song and then learning how to stri … Read More [...]

    Pingback by Why We Write? « Krazy Memoirs — February 14, 2011 @ 9:02 am | Reply

  11. Why do I write? That’s an odd question–because, well, to be completely honest with you- I don’t write, and I cannot recall any time in which I ever tried to write anything whatsoever.
    So how do I get to be so famous in a competitive writing market without writing anything? And why do I get to be on talk shows with almost no education–not even high school? And how did I just sell two hundred thousand copies of my latest novel without really being able to spell words are use fancy things like verbs? Well I have golden principle. One duty to my fellow man-it’s what gives me integrity. It’s what has made me a success.
    I simply apply myself persistently, continuously strive to produce better and better novels, and I gather up all my moral fiber. And I do just one important thing. I get up each and every day and for just one more day I simply do that one crucial thing.
    I commit the crime of Gratuitous Plagiarism. Did he say Plagiarism? “Is that legal,” you ask? No it is not legal. However it is very rewarding.
    Let me explain; one thing about plagiarism; it’s so easy and convenient. Take it from someone who is well-known, and someone who also always plagiarizes everything that he publishes. You should try plagiarizing! I promise you that once you try it, and publish a book that you never even wrote, you will never ever want to write again.
    Plagiarism changed my life and it made me quite wealthy.
    Plagiarism, unlike the tedious process of arduously applying oneself, putting their very soul into something, creating something that is truly unique, and then constantly write and rewrite it refining it always–Well unlike writing, applying yourself to the rigorous practice of constant and persistent plagiarism will never make your head hurt. You will never break a pencil tip. You will never have a wastebasket full of wadded up papers. You will have the perfect job. That’s because plagiarism, plain and simple is just very, very profitable.

    And let me tell you, plagiarizing someone else’s intellectual property, while “technically being illegal” is definitely worth all the lawsuits. In the same manner that it is worth all the jail time. And it’s even worth having to wear the radio- tracking ankle-bracelet, which I must wear at all times by court order. I don’t even mind that it shocks me if I walk further than 6 inches off of my sidewalk.
    Yes friends, it’s all worth it in the end, because I get to drive back and forth to the bank and cash those enormous checks. Then I gather up all that cash, take it home, I put it in a big pile on top of my bed, and then I roll around in it naked, while giggling maniacally, because it’s so lucrative to plagarize! Did you know that I use $50 bills for toilet paper? And $20 bills for dog toilet paper? It’s true!
    With all that income, and little to no effort on my part, I do very little at all-except steal the intellectual property of really good writers.
    Having lots of money means that I don’t have to work. This Really frees up my day, giving me lots of extra time, which I use for scheming and plotting for new brilliant ways to get rich quick while not doing squat.
    And now I can use my time to do things that I want to do. Like romantically pursue that crazy lady at Wal-Mart-that old, homeless, gray-haired lady. You know the one? I know you’ve seen her; she’s the mentally ill woman with the nomadic eye. The eccentric 69-year-old who always wanders around aimlessly in the Wal-Mart parking lot, loudly screaming obscenities at people who aren’t even there? Well, I don’t want to brag-but I’m dating her… That’s right she’s mine. And I owe it all to plagiarism.
    I think I love plagiarism so much because it’s tremendously easier than writing is. Think about it: I don’t need a computer; I don’t have to have any experience or education. Moreover, I don’t really even have to know how to read. So why on earth would I want to do lots of writing?

    You writers, you’re very erudite, your words are mellifluous, and I can tell that you work your fingers to the bone, writing the perfect words-and instead of ink- you use your own blood. And I guess that’s okay, but I’m still going to have to go with plagiarism. I don’t need a spell-checker, I definitely don’t need a thesaurus (whatever that is,) and I sure as heck don’t need an agent.

    As a semi-famous plagiarist, all that I need is a roll of dimes for the Xerox machine. I just plagiarized from both Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and it only cost me $50 to Xerox both books because I know how to efficiently use surface area.
    I recently plagiarized War and Peace. Did you know that they have that book in libraries now? Well you should know that I wrote it.
    Sometimes I don’t even bother to make the Xerox copies. I just scratch out the author’s name on the book, and write mine next to it in a really sneaky font-because I’m a very wily person.
    So work away writers, I’ll be on the beach in the Bahamas making 20%.
    Did you catch that arrogance? I’m talking about the way that I referred to myself in a superior way, while simultaneously being obnoxiously condescending? Well it’s because I have so much money that I actually take haughtiness courses.
    Well I’d love to chit chat some more, but I have to go race my hermit crabs. This is a great site. Good luck to all of you.

    PS I promise that I will not plagiarize anyone’s work written here on this blog!
    ….But as for you, Mr. Ernest Hemingway, “Watch your ass.”

    Comment by Hanson Anderson — March 20, 2011 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  12. That was just as perfect as I could imagine! :)

    Comment by YoMamaBirdRhonda — June 28, 2012 @ 7:15 pm | Reply


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