Buy “Runway”



Why I Write: Join the National Writing Project in Celebrating the National Day on Writing

It’s National Day on Writing today! To celebrate, I have a guest post by Grant Faulkner, managing editor at the National Writing Project.

Grant Faulkner is a prize-winning fiction writer. His stories have appeared in The Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Gargoyle, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Word Riot, The Big Ugly Review, Used Furniture Review, Ink, and Transfer. He’s currently the managing editor at the National Writing Project and founding editor of 100 Word Story He’s also working on his first novel, Elsewhere, and blogging about about books and writing at Lit Matters.

Why I Write
The urge to write is a mysterious calling. If you type the words “Why I Write” into Google, it’s surprising how many results you’ll get. Everyone from George Orwell to Joan Didion to Terry Tempest Williams and an assortment of other writers, famous and not so famous, have pondered this simple yet obviously meaningful act.

Orwell formally started the conversation with his seminal essay “Why I Write,” saying that he wrote “because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

Joan Didion stole his title, but took a slightly different angle, focusing on the I of writing. “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.”

To learn. To explore the world. To keep from going insane. Whatever one’s feelings about writing, one thing is sure: writing sharpens thought, spawns ideas, and connects us with one another in crucial ways.

Writing has been fundamental to human civilization since the first hieroglyphs, and it becomes more important everyday in our world that streams with emails, text messages, tweets, and blog posts. We are all writers, yet the why of writing is a topic of continual exploration.

That’s why the National Writing Project (NWP) is sponsoring the “Why I Write” campaign with The New York Times Learning Network, Figment, and Edutopia. In an age when our policy makers are emphasizing the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—we don’t want people to forget the significant place that writing has in critical thinking across the disciplines.

How to Participate
There are many ways to participate—join the national conversation by tweeting to the theme of #whyiwrite on Thursday, October 20—the National Day on Writing—or post why you write on your Facebook page.
If you’re a teacher, check out the amazing resources that the New York Times Learning Network has posted (interviews with Times reporters, writing prompts culled from their “Lives” column) or have your students publish their essays on Figment. You can also join the conversation via the blog posts Edutopia will publish.

Also, the NWP is hosting a radio show on Thursday at 4 p.m. Pacific with New York Times education reporter Fernanda Santos, New York Times Learning Network editor Katherine Schulten, Figment founder and New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear, Figment teen writers, and NWP teacher and author Ashley Hope Perez, among others.
If you need inspiration, check out these quotes from the many “Why I Write” essays on the NWP website.

“I write, in part, to learn,” says popular science writer Timothy Ferris.

“Writing is my search engine; it is the medium through which I try to make sense out of life,” says New Yorker Writer Mark Salzman.

“I write to slow down the passage of time,” says Charles Limb, a renowned researcher in otolaryngology and music.

“I write because to write a new sentence, let alone a new poem, is to cross the threshold into both a larger existence and a profound mystery,” says poet Jane Hirshfield.

“The short answer as to why I write is to share what I know and love about jazz, to shine a little light on a mystery for which I’ve never found a rational explanation,” says music critic Gary Giddens.

“Effective writing is just a vital to science as mathematics is and plays a tremendous role in moving scientific research forward,” says regenerative medicine specialist Dr. Anthony Atala.

“To communicate ideas others aren’t already forwarding, to have an influence on the culture, and to occasionally entertain,” says film critic Susan Gerhard.

Yes, to entertain, if not others, then ourselves. To make things. To create. Just for the heck of it or because of a overwhelming urge to tell the world something—to assert Joan Didion’s I. To be.

* * *
What about you? In a sentence or two, why do you write?

18 comments to Why I Write: Join the National Writing Project in Celebrating the National Day on Writing