Why I Write

I write to know I’m alive

Christiana White
Nov 13, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

I write to know I live. To affix certainty to that concept, by way of color, light, or detail.

When I write, I’m forced to visit the blood and guts of a situation. The core, the meat. The uncomfortable bits. The annoying bits. The pain.

The beauty as well.

I notice that when I stop writing, I begin slipping away from my self and my life. The days begin to pile up like lint in the dryer screen. One scrum layered over the next, in varied shades of gray.

Sometimes months go by like this.

I don’t know what’s happening during that time. I can’t remember on Mondays what I did over the weekend. I have a vague sense of loss. If it’s shortly after I’ve stopped writing again, the loss is sharp. With each passing week, however, the blow is lesser, until I’m more or less drifting about in a fog.

I’m not sure anyone else notices this.

I go through the motions of my life. I show up. For my daughter, for my friends, for my unwell ex, for my son. For my job. For my house, for my dog. I grocery-shop, cook the dinner, water the plants, and pay the bills.

Life gallops along faster and faster.

When I rouse myself and remember myself, I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and begin to birth myself anew. When I write, I am forced to reflect, to remember, to try to make sense of my life. Usually, that’s the afternoon, or the morning’s events, something that managed to wiggle through the fuzzy blanket around me. Something arrests me, something catches my attention.

I’m roused.

When I’m writing regularly, daily, that is, I am more awake and alive. I notice the funniest little things. The tufts of fur springing from between the toes of the little black dog traipsing by. The 80s grunge rock playing in the bakery. The graffiti everywhere, the yellow leaves hanging like stars in the liquid amber trees on this November day.

The way B.’s eyes widen in fear when the court-ordered psychologist takes him away for testing, in preparation for his disability court date in December.

I write to affix myself to the page and to my own life. It’s the only way I know to wake up.

And when I’m awake, I’m so much happier. I feel appreciative. Moments of grace and gratitude are more frequent.

Most important, however, is the way writing forces meaning, pattern, and connection into my life. When I’m writing regularly, my life begins to take on a form. Themes emerge. Memories emerge. Seemingly disjointed bits coalesce.

What seemed all for naught begins to seem important, worthy. Worthy of attention and examination, in the same way all minutiae is. A world in a grain of sand, indeed.

It’s true. When I telescope my life out from the details, it’s easy to see how the littlest thing is a key cog in the machinery of life. How everything fits together to form a whole. Colorful, conflicted, imperfect, perhaps, but a whole nonetheless.

What have I learned about myself through writing? I’ve learned that I’m sensitive to details. That almost anything can move me, can get through, can signify something important, something universal, if I’m receptive.

Being receptive in that way only occurs through writing. I know no other way to find it.

I write to live. When I don’t write, I am a kind of dead. I am unconscious. Going through the motions. It’s quite dramatic. It’s scary and depressing. It triggers depression. The longer I go without writing, the more buried I become.

When I’m writing, I have glints of realization that it’s all good stuff. It’s all grist for the mill. It’s all straw that can be turned to gold. It’s life. In all its humility and confusion.

When I’m writing, I’m reminded that we’re all in this together. That we’re all blinking and bleary-eyed on a daily basis, struggling up for the sunshine spilling in from the corner window, unsure of how to proceed.

I write because it triggers immense compassion in me, for others and for myself.

I write for life, for breath, for permission to linger in the sublime, quotidian, extraordinary yet ever so ordinary details of life.

The taste of a sesame seed on my tongue. Hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd pour from a car passing by and remembering Tom, the marine who came home for Christmas my sophomore year in high school and wound up in my house, where I let him stroke me with his hands until I drooled.

Windows and prisms. The way the little pools in the wetlands catch the steely sky in reflection and remind me of Hundertwasser’s paintings and my first trip to Germany and my boyfriend when I was 19 and seeing the pile of shoes at Dachau.

The gifts of life litter my shores like so much detritus. It’s up to me to stop stumbling over them. To instead, kneel down, turn the item over, take a look. Be present, be aware, and wait for the gift of realization.

I guess I write for wholeness, for integrity, for grace, for gratitude, in hopes of being blessed by insight that can only come from the great beyond. I write to remain awake to the magic of life and the world.

I write to live, to survive, to make sense of my life.

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Christiana White

Written by

I write personal essays about food, travel, love, loss — the viscera of life. Currently at work on a memoir. Visit me at ChristianaWhite.com.

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