Heidi Turner

Scene: doctor’s office. I am twelve, turning thirteen. The doctor is in her fifties. I put down the book I’d brought with me.

“Sometimes my stomach hurts like I’m scared, and I can’t breathe, and I feel all weak. My heart races.”

For years, I had imagined worlds to escape the feeling I was describing. There wasn’t a time before pretending, before story. Now, there was a time after it.

“It happens all the time.”

There’s no Narnia, I think. It was 2007. The movie was still fresh in my mind. It’s my favorite story; it’s always been.

“For a while now.”

The doctor gives me an inhaler. The next doctor adds a portable EKG, which I take from her, using the arm without the cuts on it, my strong hand. I’m left-handed. People hesitate to give me things because I reach out with the wrong side. I remember the EKG when the feeling sets in once, then three times. A week later, I get the results:

I have a very healthy heart. I have a low lung capacity, but not asthma. The limited air comes and goes just fine. I’m cleared for basketball season.

Everyone – everyone – in the tiny Christian school I attend knows that something is wrong, foundationally. A senior asks me if I’m eating.


She huffs in distain. She is lying, her face reads. I am not. I don’t have the words for this. I can’t tell the doctor it’s panic. I don’t know what panic is. This is unsustainable. As a kid, I lived in my imagination. Now, there’s no future.

Scene: Eleven years later. I am twenty-three. Rory is two years older than I was ever supposed to be. She tells me she doesn’t talk to many people. That she doesn’t talk much. I’ve known her for seven years; we’ve talked a lot. We’ve talked for eight hours straight, painting sets. Rory’s mom listened from behind another set piece. I am a safe person, someone to talk to. Chloe says I give good hugs. I tell them both, separately, that people ought to have someone that makes them feel safe. I have the right words.

I write because I can. I’ve wanted to since I saw Jo climb out the window to sneak off to a publisher’s in the 1939 version of Little Women. I write because without writers, there are no stories. I write because I’ve never understood myself without the lens of art. Now, some of it is mine. I ask questions and answer them in stories. I find myself in songs. Poems speak for themselves, often to me. Slowly, my voice is being heard by people who aren’t me, but I’m always the one who needs to read it first. My mom is a preacher; she says sermons are much the same. I write the words down and they talk back.

I live my life in overtime; writing is my living memory.

And I write because I love it.



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.

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