I write because I have to. Something inside of me aches to be expressed through the written word. Some people paint, or sing, or play the ukulele…because their soul demands […]

October 10, 2013 // Rebecca Pillsbury // No Comments //

I write because I have to.

Something inside of me aches to be expressed through the written word. Some people paint, or sing, or play the ukulele…because their soul demands that they do.  My soul demands that I write. To not write, would be to swallow the voice the universe so generously gifted me at birth.

When we repress the expression of our voices—our natural creative outlets—repeatedly over time, our bodies accumulate masses of energy that become dis-ease. I know, because I stopped writing for several years. There is no sense deliberating how or why I strayed from my soul’s natural path; I’m just grateful I’m back on it now—that I remembered who I was born to be.

I was born to be a writer. From the day I could read, I wanted to create and publish my own stories.  “I want to be an author when I grow up!” were words spoken more readily than they were given thought to. It was instinctual—they effortlessly rolled off my tongue like the words that would later seep out from my pen.

My passion for words began with books…piles upon piles of books I collected from the library like leaves would collect in the fall. Just when I thought I’d gathered all those that captured my interest, my gaze would fall upon exciting new covers and off I’d go to add more to my stack. I’d exhaust the library’s checkout limit every time.

I have a vivid childhood memory from when I was perhaps eight years old. I was ready to check out a large stack of books at the library.  When I went with my parents, they allowed me to indulge in my shy nature and hang in back while they checked my books out for me. But this day, I was with my babysitter. She was not my favorite babysitter—she made fun of me for watching The Brady Bunch every day after school—but at least she took me to the library this time.

“Go on,” she said, standing in the back of the lobby and motioning for me to go stand in line—alone. I didn’t want to do it. I looked at her with pleading eyes, “Come with me,” they begged, but she wouldn’t have it. I hated her in that moment. I looked down at my books. My beautiful, carefully selected pile of promise, then looked at the distance that stood between me and the opportunity to pour through them in private. Fifteen long feet of distance between me and that checkout counter. My heart raced with treacherous anticipation of what lay ahead. The greater fear, however, was  that I might not get to enjoy my books, so I stood in line and eventually approached the counter in silence, looking down at my feet as the checkout lady attempted to make small talk. I silently wished she’d be quiet and ring my books up faster so I could retreat back to my safety zone. Oh, the perils of being an extremely shy child who loved to read.

Once home, I ached for moments of solitude in my room, or in the makeshift fort I built out of blankets, next to the living room foyer’s heater.  I was close enough to hear the comforting sounds of my dad turning the newspaper pages and my mom’s voice interrupting him to share a minor revelation, but far enough away in my mind to escape within my private world of Choose Your Own Adventure books and the escapades of The Boxcar Children.

I would first “introduce” myself to each book, as if encountering a potential new best friend. I explored each book’s binding and texture, breathed in the distinct aromas of freshly printed versus well-loved pages, and investigated the contents for stains or slips of paper that left clues as to who before me had lost themselves within the journey I was about to embark on.  Reading a library book felt like becoming part of an exclusive tribe. I found ways to leave my own mark on each book, be it by dog-earing the pages of favorite passages, or writing my initials in tiny letters with a pencil in the back of the book. As I got older, I’d write the codename for my secret crush instead.

When I wasn’t in my blanket fort, I was stretched out on pillows and blankets in the cabinets above my closet. I used a ladder to reach the loft with my flashlight. I could shut the doors and no one would know where I was. My parents would ask each other if they had seen me. I could hear them downstairs—or sometimes even right outside my open bedroom door. But I never let on that I could hear them—that I was right there, in one of my private sanctuaries, visiting my new best friends.

When I turned to writing as a pre-teen, it became more about therapy than it was about creating stories. My journals were better than my real life friends—they were deep conversations with my soul. I always felt significant release when I’d finally reach the end of a stream of consciousness and sign my name, as if I’d been writing a personal letter. Indeed, all of my journals had names—whimsical, invented names created by moving letters around into unique representations of personal secrets. I had a fantasy that my journals would one day be published, like the journal entries in the book Go Ask Alice, only without the sex and drugs and temporary stay in an insane asylum. My journals, in contrast, would represent the angst of a typical adolescent soul.

Even without a childhood of intense drama, I believed I had something meaningful to say. I ached to finally feel heard, as I felt so uncomfortable when it came to real, out-loud words. If the people around me couldn’t truly hear me, perhaps the world would. Someday.

Yes, “Someday,” I vowed, “the world will hear my voice.”

I write because I have to.

What do you have to do?