Why We Write: Why We Read

Books and books, waiting to hand up their secrets.

Books and books, waiting to hand up their secrets.


            “If writing were illegal, I’d be in prison,” wrote David Baldacci in his contribution to the book Why We Write. “I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion. When the sentences and the story are flowing, writing is better than any drug. It doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel good about everything.”

            After 24 novels since 1996 and being endorsed by both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he has shown us what an addiction to writing looks like.

            I write for many reasons, one of which is to marvel at the combinations of words that splat themselves on the page when I put fingers to keys. I often say, even out loud, “How did that happen?” In fact, writing is so much fun for me—whether it’s serious nonfiction or fun sentences for children—that I have to give myself permission to write. I’ll tend to take care of “work” items on my list before I let myself settle into writing. That’s a big handicap, almost as if I’ll be found out and punished for having so much fun while the undone work awaits.

            About reading and why we read? I’ve just finished a book that raised the question for me. It was Call the Midwife, and my conclusion was that it takes a whole lot of courage to read that book. It’s about midwifery, poverty, workhouses, etc. in East End London in the 1900s. Some of the true stories will make you shade your eyes and gasp while you travel on through the words because you dare not abandon the characters and leave them on their own. Yes, some books take courage to read.

            Some books are just plain fun to read. My husband retrieves from moth balls about every three years a book called Ball Four by Jim Bouton. I like to watch him get tickled, over and over. If you’re a baseball fan, this is a chuckler, finding out what goes on behind the scenes of our national pastime.

            Another fun book for me is Kelly Bingham’s picture book, named Z is for Moose. Genre-speaking, it’s an alphabet book for young children. Overall, it appeals to adults as well with Moose’s antics to represent the letter M. The illustrations are half the fun.

            Reading also provides wonderful escapes from reality—and not necessarily fantasy books only. If I want to take a reading trip for a weekend, I’ll check out a Jennifer Egan or Jody Picoult book and veg in my favorite chair with a never-ending cup of tea.

What does your list say about you?

What does your list say about you?

            In the end, reading and writing go hand in hand. One feeds the other, not to be separated. Reading gives writers new directions and models; writing gives readers a way to make choices about what they want to read next. Maybe the best we do for ourselves is to match our reading with our mood; match our writing with our inspiration at the moment. Happy reading and writing.