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Why I Write

Updated on January 18, 2021
jo miller profile image

In this personal essay, Jo writes about her lifetime addiction to the written word and the joy and frustration it has added to her life.


My Creative Awakening

Early in my life, I discovered that I could draw. More specifically I could draw the Campbell's Soup Kids, those cute, round-faced cartoon characters used by the Campbell's Soup Company to advertise their products. When I learned I could reproduce those faces it was an ah-ha moment for me. Then I began to see if I could reproduce other objects.

I soon learned that Campbell's Soup Kids were easy to reproduce compared to other things. Just draw a circle and put the cute little eyes, nose and mouth on and you had a Campbell's Soup Kid. No worries about shading or perspective. Other things were a little more complicated.

These difficulties didn't stop me, however. I kept trying. Give me some pencils and a sketch pad and I was a happy kid. I even sought out books and materials to help me learn about shading and such. Then when I was about eleven or twelve I got a Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw book. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received. And I practiced and practiced and practiced using that book.

Over time, I got a little better. I never thought I was great. I just thought I loved drawing.

Commercial Featuring Campbell's Soup Kids

Achieving a Little Recognition....

When I was in high school, my school added art to the curriculum for the very first time. I signed up, of course, but so did many other students who had no interest in art but thought this would be an easy class. Our teacher, who was a novice at teaching, was a good instructor but not so good at controlling the students' behavior, so the class was often bedlam.

In spite of the bedlam, I still loved this class. I was learning about art.

Our poor teacher left teaching after that year, but at the end of the year before he left he sent in a recommendation for me to attend a workshop that was being offered at our state university during the summer break for art students with promise.

....and Failure

I was excited to attend this workshop that was being taught by a couple of award winning artists, but I was a shy little teenager and more than a little nervous about being there. I had been the best art student in my small high school, but I was in class with other 'best art students' from across the state. Right away, I began comparing myself to these other students and came out on the losing end.

By the time I left that workshop that summer I was asking myself, "Why did I think I was any good at art?" I decided I was wasting my time pursuing art. I quit drawing. It was one of the worst decisions I ever made. I still regret it.

Moving On

During this period of my life, though, I was dealing with interests other than art. Besides dealing with the normal teenage angst about dating and fitting in, I was returning to high school to finish my senior year and begin thinking about college. And there were other high school classes besides art that appealed to me.

I may be biased about this, but it seems to me the best high school teachers are often the English teachers. That was certainly true in my case. My English teacher, Mrs. Fraim, was a pleasant, intelligent, long-time teacher with a genuine love of literature, the English language, and her students. Some students complained because she could also be quite demanding in her requirements. One of her requirements was that we write a paper almost every week while in her class.

Mrs. Fraim's requirements never seemed demanding to me. I took to the writing the same way I had taken to art. It was definitely more fun than conjugating verbs. And if Mrs. Fraim liked your writing, she was good about singing your praises. That always helps.

I suppose it was good there were no summer workshops for writing students in our universities because this enjoyment of writing stayed with me and served me well all through my university years. I even liked the essay tests in college that most students complained about.

The culmination of my writing career in college was the Advanced Composition course my last semester before graduation. Our professor in this class audaciously asked us to take the articles from The Atlantic magazine and see if we could improve them based on the principles he was illustrating. I loved it.

A Good Reason to Write

"The problem is never our grieving or grievances...........The pain that cripples is the pain that is borne alone -- never put into words. This is the pain that becomes a pool of tears hidden away inside, keeping us from connecting in any important way with others."

Quote by Elizabeth O'Connor author of Journey Inward, Journey Outward.

Since I often wrote about my pain and grief during these years, my journals became, at times, a place for my 'pool of tears'. Writing kept me sane.

Writing Becomes a Habit

After university, I had few requirements to continue writing. By this time, though, I had replaced my sketch book with a journal, so I kept writing things down. At first, it was just negative things I'd write down--negative feelings and events. Then I'd read them later, get depressed and throw them out. Over time, I threw fewer things away and settled into just writing down the details of my life.

By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I was married with two small children and a part-time job as a teacher. I loved being a mother (still do) and I loved teaching, but I didn't love my role as a wife. So I gave that up. The divorce, though, was brutal, as they often are, and left me wounded and fragile.

I decided my two small children (who had not asked to be born) deserved the best life I could give them, so I picked my wounded and fragile self up and began creating our new life. I had to leave my part time job that I loved and take a full time job I didn't particularly like because I needed benefits like retirement and health insurance.

Through all of this life, my journals stayed with me. They became the verbal sketch books of my life, written, often dispassionately, to record the joys and the tragedies of a life. At times the events themselves would seem overwhelming and almost too much to face head on. So I'd write them down to come back to later and do the proper grieving when I felt stronger.

I wrote about the death of our first baby shortly after birth.

I wrote about caring for my mother during the early stages of her Alzheimer's disease.

I wrote about the divorce and the financial hardships that followed. The illnesses of my children. Their joys and their sorrows. And the loneliness of being a single parent.

I wrote these journals and tucked them away, often forgetting they were there. Sometimes I come across those journals unexpectedly, read through them, and find myself grieving for events I couldn't grieve about at the time they occurred. I still can't read through the journal I kept about my mother's illness though. It's too painful, forty years later.

From NOW I BECOME MYSELF by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
‘Hurry, you will be dead before-‘........

Becoming Myself

Other than keeping journals, I never considered doing anything more with writing. After my divorce, I was consumed with putting bread on the table and keeping a roof over our heads while nurturing and supporting my two beautiful daughters. Emotionally and financially, it was a trying time.

The first summer after my divorce my daughters spent two weeks with their father during the summer. Afterward, a friend asked me what I had done during that time. "I had a nervous breakdown," I told her, "and I'm going to do that every year when they're gone." I spent a good part of the first week lying on my couch and crying. The second week I lay on my couch and read.

My reading material that week consisted of three books: Journal of a Solitude by Mae Sarton, What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles, and Journey Inward, Journey Outward by Elizabeth O'Connor. Reading these books was my gift to myself and by reading them I developed a very firm sense of who I was and what I wanted out of my life.

One of the things I decided during that week and the weeks and years that followed is that I would like to pursue writing. But I never considered writing as a way to make a living, and I desperately needed to find employment to support my family. Most of my energy in these years was devoted to making a home for me and my girls. This dream, however, was always there in the back of my mind.

To keep this dream alive, I often read about writing--how to do it, how others had done it. And I also wrote in my journals about the life I was living


The end of the poem NOW I BECOME MYSELF

".....Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!"

What motivates you to write

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When Dreams Come True

In addition to chronicling my life, my journals were also a record of my dreams and aspirations. I developed a habit of periodically making short lists of the things I really wanted out of my life. The welfare of my children and financial security were usually at the top of those lists during those early years. But there were always other dreams on the lists. Even though much of my energy went toward raising my daughters and achieving financial security, I consistently worked toward making the other dreams a reality.

One of those dreams was to have a home in the country. I read a book about contracting your own home and decided that would help me achieve that goal. I found a house plan for a small house I liked and carried it around in my planning book for years.

I was showing this house plan to one of my coworkers one day and pointed to one of the small bedrooms and said, "That's my grandchildren's room".

"And how many grandchildren do you have?"

"None," I told her "but if I build it they will come."

I am retired now and settled in to live in this house I built here in the country. My daughters are adults and have children of their own, so the little room at the back of my house (the red room, we call it) is often occupied by four little granddaughters.

Along the way, several years back, I met and married my soul mate. That was never on my lists of things I wanted. Just a little serendipity. But I cannot imagine my life without him now.

All that's left to do is write. I do that daily because I'm running out of time.

What's your story? Why do you write?


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    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      3 years ago from Tennessee

      I think you're right, Scott. Writing things down is just a part of who I am and it's help me understand myself through the years.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I heard this quote many years ago: "Leadership is the highest form of self expression."

      I think a better quote is: "Writing is the highest form of self expression." It's especially true with fiction because we use it to explore so many aspects of human nature. In reality, I think we really use fiction to explore our own nature more than humanity as a whole.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      It is still one of my joys. I should also get back to art some day.

    • jwmurph profile image

      John Murphree 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      I am glad that you have followed that part of your dreams that led to writing, if not as an artist. The love of our English language and particularly its literature is a treasure which all of us can possess.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      Arthur, fascinating story about our writing.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      Glenis, Glad you enjoyed my story.

    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 

      4 years ago from England

      What a wonderful article, I was encapsulated by every word you wrote.

      I was a slow starter, which might be heredity e.g. both my brother and son were slow starters; and possibly my great-great grandfather (1829-1905). My great-great grandfather wrote in his diary that he left school aged 14 (c1843) a poor scholar; which I interpreted to mean he didn’t do as well at school as he would have liked. However, he did go on to be a prolific writer (very much like my mother). All his writings have been passed down through the generations to me.

      Both I and my brother were illiterate until the age of 10; my brother taught himself to read by taking a dirty magazine up a tree and figuring out what the words under the pictures meant. I taught myself to read thanks to my grandmother, who bought me a science book for Christmas (when I was still 9); the book had 360 pages, each page covered a different scientific topic.

      I was determined to understand what each page said, so over the next year I struggled to work out the text on one page of the book per night; the first word I learnt to read was ‘little’. After that year everything just clicked into place, and I was able to read; which opened up a whole new world, and within a few short years I’d caught up with my school class mates in senior school. Then a couple of years later I’d progressed enough to pass all the necessary written exams to get the qualifications I needed for a good government job for life; and a good pension at the end.

      The first thing I bought with my first wage packet was a typewriter. Included with the typewriter I bought was a free ‘teach yourself to touch type’ manual. So every evening when I got home from work, for the next few weeks, instead of watching TV I worked my way through the manual, and ever since have been able to touch type; which opened up another whole new world.

      So these day, as I sit here typing at home, I just let my thoughts flow from my mind to my fingers (and let them do all the work) while I occasionally look at the screen to check the format and layout, and then gaze out of the window at the trees and sky; while listening to the radio and sipping my cup of coffee, which is very relaxing, and very tranquil.

      To get to the hub of the question; the reasons I type are:-

      • Because I was a late developer (illiterate until 10), writing has opened up a whole new world which I didn’t have as a child; so I’m very appreciated of the written word.

      • I find writing an invaluable skill for recording all my family research (genealogy).

      • It’s an invaluable tool for organising my daily life because since being taught Project Management at work, I now Project Manage everything I do (a nerd and geek).

      • I like to impart my experiences and knowledge to others in the hope that it might help someone; even just helping one person makes it worthwhile.

      • And finally, if I earn a few pennies (a little money) through writing (which I do), then it’s a bonus. What I earn through writing more than pays for Christmas, so it makes for a cheap Christmas for us.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glen Rix 

      4 years ago from UK

      What a lovely story. It's wonderful that you have found happiness in later life.

    • bodylevive profile image


      4 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Great reason to write, wonderful story. I write because I love my pets, football team, family and enjoy doing research.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      bodylevive, good luck with your new attempts here. I am in the same boat--been on here a while but just recently decided to get more serious about it. See you around.

    • bodylevive profile image


      4 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Great hub, enjoyed it. I love writing too, even though I'm not as good as I'd like to be. I guess all of that comes with time and practice. I've been on here for 7 years but never wrote very much. I'm back and all of that is about to change, so I'll be seeing you.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You have to do what you got to do. Creativity can be a luxury. Your daughters are for family, which is extremely important. But I hope if they wish it to be, they too can follow their inner creative muse. All the very best.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      threekeys, My daughters are well established supporting their families. Like me, I think they may be neglecting their creative sides. But they do a good job of nurturing this in their daughters, and I hope we may see an artist or two some day.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I write because I enjoy writing short stories. I enjoy creating a character and sharing that character's emotions and problems with the reader. Doing this helps make that character come alive for the reader.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      Jodah, I believe many of us are drawn to writing because of a need for a creative outlet. I still have other creative outlets, but writing remains extremely important to me.

      I admire your poetry and may try that someday myself. That's one area I have not dabbled in. That's my husband's field.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great affirmation of your craft!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I like your last point, because you are running out of time. I write because I can't imagine not writing, and because this is my last chance to add something meaningful to my legacy.

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      Hi, Ann. Glad you were inspired by this. I do have one granddaughter who begins a new story almost every time she visits, but she never seems to finish them. I'm afraid I may share some of those characteristics at times.

      Keep writing!

    • jo miller profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Miller 

      4 years ago from Tennessee

      Coffeequeeen, Glad you enjoyed reading my recollections and hope you continue your writings. Good luck to you and thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I was both inspired and spellbound by your story, Jo. To me you are brave.

      I wonder now what will be the story of your adult children and their daughters? Are they showing signs of loving the word?

      Great story! And how lovely to hear how serendipity brought you your soul mate.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      What a wonderful story of perseverance and strength. When times are lonely, listeners scarce, the grief too deep, sometimes all we have is our writing. It's also a good way to work out some of the issues that still gnaw at the soul. You had me utterly enthralled by the sincerity of your story. I wish long ago there had been someone to insist that you not compare yourself to the other artists. Sometimes you need to do something for your own reasons just because you love it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Gondwana Land

      This was a wonderful read, Jo, through all your trials and hard times to where you are now. I too started out wanting to be an artist as I loved drawing, but eventually realised that there were so many great artists out there that I couldn't really compete with. I have always loved writing but never took it seriously until I joined I am not complete without a pen in hand.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      What an inspiring hub! I was totally absorbed whilst I read your story, through the hardships and out the other side.

      Writing is often cathartic and is so worthwhile. Teachers who encourage and inspire are wonderful; those who denigrate should never have been allowed to teach in the first place.

      I've always loved the written word, always loved writing and reading. I now have grandchildren who also love doing both, from 20 months old to 16. That's the best bit, seeing them enjoy words like I do.

      Great hub. I'm glad you kept up the writing because you do it well.


    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      4 years ago from Norfolk, England

      I really enjoyed reading your article. There's a couple of websites I write on, and dabble with a couple of blogs now and again. I've always enjoyed reading and writing, it's a hobby I've always enjoyed. I'm glad I've found Hubpages. There's so many interesting articles and hubs on here I've enjoyed reading.


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