Alanna Ritchie

Sounds get stuck in my head and until I put them on paper they just feel like chaos. Writing helps me organize these thoughts and understand my own feelings, desires and disappointments.

My favorite thing about writing, especially poetry, is that you can take an awful experience, like losing a job or having unrequited romantic feelings for someone (both encounters I’ve written about!), and mold a description about the experience that is art. You can make tragedy into a beautiful verse. Then, you have something you’ve made that surpasses the momentary affliction and gently reminds you of who you are and what you are about.

So many people hate being forced to read. Even more than that, people detest poetry. All from an early age. Reading assignments in school are tedious. The canon of great poems and literature includes verses that are long, confusing and boring. Being forced to read or write feels like a burden too. My two least favorite poems are Wallace Stevens’ The Emperor of Ice Cream and Thomas Hardy’s The Convergence of the Twain. Why? Because I find them utterly horribly confusing, I don’t relate to them and they do not make me feel anything!

In college and high school classes we discussed these poems and teachers said “Don’t you see the significance? The hints at political and historical events?!” And truly I didn’t. This doesn’t make them bad poems though. Many poems are not enjoyable. I think there’s pressure to love the world’s greatest writings and claim we understand them totally. But this is unfair. Taste does factor in. And I would encourage anyone in the early stage of becoming an writer and reader to develop their own pallet. Find what you like.

The first writer and poet I ever encountered was my mother. She wrote poetry and welcomed me to the world of writing your own poetry. She showed me how poetry was valuable and I could be part of it. I hope that everyone has someone in their life telling them their words are valuable.

I had teachers in high school who encouraged me to read and understand poems. In college I took many poetry classes that helped me find a gem here and there that I could relate to and enjoy. I found enjoy poets like e.e. cummings (I love rulebreakers!), W.H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou and Billy Collins. If you ever have the opportunity to hear a published poet read their work or give a speech, I urge you to go and listen.

Hearing the powerful voice of Maya Angelou and the humorous stories from Billy Collins helped me see that these authors are people with everyday experiences that they can transform. You can inspire the broken with verses. You can share your amusement with chess pieces. The possibilities for the types of feelings you can instill in others are endless.



When the task of writing grows inevitably arduous—and seemingly thankless—we must remember why we started. Inspired by George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Why I Write,” this introspective project highlights our motives for writing. Share your story and join the conversation. Live events are produced throughout the diverse cities of Orange County and feature author readings from curated essay submissions.

  1. Write a 500-word essay explaining why you write.
  2. Submit via Submittable.

The 1888 Podcast Network is a curated collection of educational and entertaining podcasts. Each program is designed to provide a unique platform for industry innovators to share stories about art, literature, music, history, science, or technology.