Jonathan Donabo

I began to write because I needed it, but I think I would be lying if I gave you a definite answer. I first started writing poetry in middle school or high school to cope with my mental illness and ‘figure my self out’. In using the word figure, I will invoke three meanings. The first, would be the verb, to make a shape of, the second, of a shape that is too far and indistinct, and the third, would be of the shape of someone’s body. This is to say that, principally, writing has been a way for me to make a shape of something that may seem too far or indistinct; and in figuring something else out, I discover my body, my self. Writing has allowed me to discover: what is distant, near, immediate, personal, intimate, loved, loving, love, hurtful, hurting, hurt,

When I explain what I mean, I like to start from big to little, or little to big. But before I go on, I will look to Leibniz for a bit of philosophy on reflective acts, “…Reflective Acts, which cause us to think of what is called the I, and to decide that this or that is within us…in thinking about ourselves we think of being, substance, of the simple and the composite, of a material thing and of God…” Thus, when reflecting, when thinking about and expressing ourselves, we consider and express the whole universe.

I am so little. And so, I write for metaphor: to make relationships and figure my self. To feel full, to figure my shape, and fill it with the universe. To explain what I mean. To realize that in expressing who I am, in discovering whether I’m this or that, I start to build connections with the world around me. I write for the I, the ego, to have a trace in everything, and allow every thing to have a trace in me. And, then, to figure myself again, and again, and again.

Reconfiguration is the most fun part of writing. Today, I write for the universe, and tomorrow I will abandon all this Leibnizian and Derridean philosophy and write about gum and dirt in the attic. I will forget that gum is expressing some distant truth, but I will write because, well, gum.

I have seen writing that assumes control of language, but I have realized that when writing I let language come to me. In a stupid sense, I don’t realize meaning until after I have expressed it. When sharing my writing, I have a mentor that always tells me, “You have to think of what gift this poem is giving.” Writing, here, is a way of giving to the universe and allowing the universe to give to you. Writing poetry should be a way to mean with, and in, the vast universe.

And my I is so little all it can try to do is mean



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.