February

— Ashley Heaton

Why do I write?

In short, I write because I must. I write because I know no better way to process the clutter of the world and explore the mysteries of life. Why does anyone write, if not for this reason?

Since I first learned how to put pen to paper at the age of 5 or 6, I felt compelled to transfigure my thoughts this way. I had an overactive imagination, and writing became my long-sought-after outlet for it. I still have an overactive imagination, and writing has remained my outlet for it! I have always obsessively consumed art of all types, and have gone through phases of creating other types of art too – visual art, music – but writing stuck with me. It was the form that was most effective in helping me understand the intense feelings of love, joy, pain or fear that at times filled my being to the brim. I was a shy and anxious child, terrified of revealing myself through speaking, so the written word was my preferred method of ensuring that my heart would not explode. It still is.

As I have gotten older, this drive remains unchanged, but I have come across other reasons to write too. First, writing can sometimes be a spiritual exercise – a way to get in touch with nature and the divine and to explore any spiritual quandaries that pass through my head. Second, having spent more and more time as a journalist, I have also become more insistent that all of my writing should carry a sense of purpose; that it should strive to reveal some great truth whether personal or political. For me, this realization has only come with age because, frankly, it requires confidence and boldness to share one’s distinct point of view. Only in the past few years have I become confident that I have reached a place in my life at which my point of view is not a product of youthful naïveté, but one actually worth imparting.

I did not entertain the idea of writing as a career until age 15, when a teacher told me she thought I had talent and should explore writing as a potential life path. Once the specter of writing for work took over for my innate childhood desire to write for enjoyment, writing became something of a chore for me and remained that way for some time. For years I believed that my work needed to be published, not only in a publication but in a prestigious one, in order to be worth creating. I have since realized that this is not the case. In fact, the exercise of writing for pleasure is perhaps the best way to develop one’s skills! This realization was a watershed moment for me. I feel as though I have returned to the unadulterated state in which I first learned to love writing. I now only write when a project truly moves me, regardless of if and where it is to be published, and I find myself writing more frequently. Now I write because I must – and only because I must!

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