Why do I write?

Muhammad D., Class of 2023

Why do I write?

I wanted to be a writer very early on, dabbling in it here and there, until around middle school, where the problem started. While I enjoyed reading, the same was not true of writing. The more I understood about it, the less appealing it became. Metaphor and simile, allegory and aphorism, prose and poetry. Hundreds of variables to consider and balance. All done for what, to me, seemed to be little effect. English courses taught me the deep, lapping sea that literature was, and there was nothing I hated more than swimming. Again and again, I faced the bitter reality of writing — that it was work, and it was work working towards nothing. And from there, I resigned myself to consuming – but never creating. And so, I stopped writing.

Freshman year of high school hit. Between new friends and old, I began to slowly notice a distinction forming between me and them, one only I seemed to notice.


They understood their goals, trajectory. They knew what they wanted, and I saw the joy in their eyes as they reached out to take it. I wanted to do the same, for my eyes to light up as theirs did, but there was nothing to take, not even to touch. I didn’t know what could go in its place, and so I wondered.

Freshman year ends, and that ephemeral summer reaching towards sophomore year is coming to an end as well. Trees wilted, burned devilish red by some obscure sickness of age. Pervasive. I watch it snake into everything. Into my community, my school, my home. My friends are called slurs, made lesser. I recall seeing a news report that, in one particular instance, a boy repeatedly called another black student at my school the N word, hard R, clutching a Confederate belt buckle and brandishing an impunitive smile. The school, of course, does nothing. Some unknown vermin etches a slur onto my cousin’s car for no reason other than his blackness, and the school, of course, does nothing. I, myself, watch as a member of the football team, loud and proudly, espouses white supremacist rhetoric and goes on to explain why he would kill himself if he were black, and the school, of course, does nothing, and the rage builds until I have to do something.

I turn back to writing.

In a piece I will later title “Doghouse”, I try to crystallize something sedimentary to my life. I slam away at the keyboard because every word is an expression of pure, directed rage. I punch and slash and claw at the core until it is bare and exposed for the pathetic thing that it is. Words fly, printed and unprinted, typed and deleted. The war I wage inside myself runs wild. It was expression. A constellation of burning thought and amorphous feeling igniting the sky. And then I submit it to a writing contest, and it wins because it hurts. I hurt the reader like I’ve been hurt so that they understand the feeling, so they lament the torture of sensation like I did. And that comforted me.

At some point after, there was a single moment where everything clicked into place and I understood. It was not through some grand, life-altering event, but silent introspection. I sat on my bed and looked out into the street, watching the trees bend and wave softly in the wind, a gesture of peace. And it was there that I realized I could do it again. I could let people feel with me. Strangers to cry, laugh, rage with. An ocean of feeling with which I could help others to drink. Metaphor and simile, allegory and aphorism, prose and poetry all synchronized with me, lockstep to help, to heal, to emphasize. I finally understood what writing could do.

And so I write.