Why we write

Posted on January 31, 2011 in Beachside Writers, Blog, Books, Life in general, Speaking | 39 comments

In Yachats, Beachside Writer Michelle Koehn of Eugene works on a short writing assignment.

AS I PREPARE for the Feb. 25-27 Beachside Writers Workshop in Yachats, the question comes up as it certainly will that weekend.

Why write?

Why bother to risk putting something down on paper when it might just blow away in the wind? Or get kicked back at you by someone’s criticism? Or require you to make sacrifices in the process of creating your story — with no guaranty that it’ll mean anything to anybody other than you?

Sure, writing allows a creative outlet. Allows you to vent. Allows you to offer your perspective on the world.

But more than anything, here’s why we write: because, as with other gifts we have to give — be they cooking, painting or making really good snow angels with your children — it allows us to leave the world differently than we found it.

To make a difference.

To make someone laugh. Ponder. Think. Wonder. Perhaps even get angry.

I was thinking about this after reading a story called “Dogzilla” to a bunch of first-graders at Prairie Mountain School in Eugene. You show up, they hand you a book and you read. Often, I confess, I’m initially preoccupied, thinking about some deadline at work I have later that day.

But as I read “Dogzilla,” the kids’ 8:30 a.m. blank faces suddenly turned into smiles. And laughter. And eye-rolling disbelief.

And I was reminded of the power of words. Simple words.

All because of Dav Pilkey’s story about a dog who rises from a volcano to break up the first annual Mousopolis Barbecue Cook-Off, and scatter the Big Cheese’s troops with her fearsome doggy breath.

Too often we think the only writing that “counts” is the New York Times best-seller stuff geared toward the cultural sophisticates.

Not true. There is no Writing God who deems these words worthy and those words not.
It is all in the eyes of the beholders, the readers, the folks who will open some musty family journal 50 years after you, the writer, have died. The letter-to-the-editor reader who looks at some issue a bit more open-minded because of your words. The cynic who can’t help but feel even a touch hopeful because of your silver-lining sentences.

That’s why we write. For the same reason why the ex-prisoner Brooks (James Whitmore), before taking his own life, takes out a knife and etches “Brooks was here” into a beam. To remind people that we somehow matter.

That’s not ego. That’s simply wanting to think the world is different because we are around.

Whether it’s three words scratched into a piece of wood or a 90,000-word novel, that’s why we write. To say something to the world. And, if we’re fortunate, to leave that world better than we found it.

At Beachside Writers, our goal is simple: to help you write better. To affirm you as a writer. And to help you tell that story inside of you that’s crying to be told.

OK, we also want to stuff you with you all sorts of great food, remember what a campfire s’more tastes like, meet new people, forget, if even for a weekend, whatever job you do, smell the inspiring salt air, watch breakers, listen to Drift Inn guitarist/singer Richard Sharpless play at our Saturday lunch, laugh about whoever can come up with the wildest metaphors, snuggle into a new Beachside sweatshirt, be inspired, learn new writing techniques, chat with my 83-year-old mom about her plans to be part of on an all-women sailboat crew in the Virgin Islands this spring, understand the challenges of being published and stretch yourself as a writer.

But mainly, we want to remind you that you — and your words — matter.

Beachside Writers Feb. 25-27 info.


  1. I will bookmark that short piece and of course the photo of my beautiful friend who did not want to attend this year’s Beachside Workshop, thus causing me to not go, which I am NOT happy about!
    Inspiration and encouragement are lacking in my life with regards to writing. So many other things keep me from writing. I will read what you wrote over and over and perhaps one day soon I will find my muse. Thanks, Bob. I know the folks at Beachside will be blessed and encouraged. Have fun. I know I would have.

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