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  • Writer's pictureJeremiah Ritchie

500 Words - Day 12: Why I Write

My dad is a published author. It's not why I write, but I think there must be some part of me that connects to him through writing. One of the bedrooms in our apartment was his office. He'd sit in a chair in the corner when he was reading or listening to the radio. There were shelves of old paperback westerns, the same genre of his novels, and several books by Isaac Asimov. A .22 caliber rifle sat in the corner behind the door. I have golf clubs and a small bourbon collection instead of a rifle, and I have more Tolkien and Rilke on my shelves than L'Amour or McMurtry, but otherwise our offices bear a striking resemblance. Maybe there's something in the genes.

I think I might have been voted "Most Likely to Become a Writer" in my high school year book at some point. I'm not sure what they saw then that I didn't, but my path to writing has been long and laborious. I certainly don't write out of any natural giftedness for the art. I heavily lean toward non-fiction in my writing, though I've dabbled, privately, with fictional works. A short story and the open paragraphs of a story about a boy and his dragon I wrote on a plane last year to distract myself and my kids. But none of these really describe why I write.

It's certainly not in the pursuit of fame or riches. I'm not inclined to pursue writing for those purposes and, even if I were, the likelihood of that perfect storm isn't worth considering. Many authors will pen works of art but never see their name in lights.

Part of me is still learning why I write. It's something that can only really be discovered by the doing of the act, the working-it-out of the craft. I know that when I write I feel connected to myself, grounded to something greater, unseen but present. When I write I'm filled with hope that what I say and think and share might make a positive impact in the world. I write because it's the medium through which I engage others.

But if I could tell you why I hope I write, it would be because of the words I heard from an author that I cannot recall. She said, "I write because I want to tell the truth of what it's like to be alive." That's why I want to write. That's what I hope to write. I want to tell the truth of what it's like to be alive, to struggle and stretch. To grow and learn. To want something so bad you can do nothing but chase after it, all else be damned. I want to write about heartache and healing. I want to write about searching for our souls and discovering they were deep within us the whole time, full and wonderful without any need to qualify or quantify their existence. I want to write about searching for God and finding ourselves, about failing as a father and husband, about raising children that could run the world better than any adult. In fact, that is why I write. I'm still learning the voice, honing the craft, and giving it the best I've got, but I can claim that reason as my own. I write because I want to tell the truth of what it's like to be alive.

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