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Why Do I Write?

I don’t know who started the question, but I first found about it from Neil Gaiman on Twitter: Why do you write? Here’s my answer, not limited to 140 characters.

The other reason why I write is because my cats Harriet and Pascal hog the recliner, so I can't just laze around all day.

I write because my first impulse whenever I discover something new and exciting is to explain it to someone else. Sometimes it’s something truly new to me, or it might be a rediscovery of something I already knew; other times it may be a new insight into something I didn’t understand before (or didn’t understand in that way). No matter what, I want to share it as soon as possible.

My father used to make fun of me when I was a little kid: I would start writing or drawing, and I’d get so excited I’d have to jump up and down until I had burned that extra energy off before I could resume. I’m not quite that way now, which is good, since I often write in the Richmond Public Library. (It makes for a great mental image, though: a grown man in a sport coat jumping up and down in excitement in the middle of a quiet library. Dustin Hoffman plays me in the film version for that sequence.) I still do get excited, though I try to channel it directly through the writing instead of my legs.

Writing and teaching for me stem from the same impulse; I’ve said before that writing has helped me become better at explaining, at least as far as I can tell. Some of my posts are pretty blatantly pedagogical. Not every science writer I respect is pedagogical, of course; I’d say most aren’t, so I’m definitely not saying this is how it should be.

Part of why this thought is in my head tonight is that I’ve been writing so many job applications. I never really emphasized writing before, but now that I’m regularly writing for the first time since college (and that was obviously a different situation entirely), I don’t want to give it up. No matter what kind of paid work I end up doing, writing will be part of my life. It’s necessary to me now, a compulsion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to jump up and down a few times before I work on my next post some more.

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2 Responses to “Why Do I Write?”


  1. 1 Richard Francis October 20, 2011 at 23:22

    I did *not* make fun of you :P


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