13 on the prompt list is;

“Write about why you write.”

I have loved words for as long as I can remember being aware of them. Whether it be a long, complex paragraph or a brief sentence; the way you can use letters and spaces to articulate how you’re feeling has always been something that’s enchanted me. Combined with their capacity to convey emotion and meaning, it’s of little surprise that I consider written text to be one of the greatest forms of self expression.

The library was one of my favourite places growing up, a bona fide utopia for a nerd like me. To walk into a quiet building and be surrounded by stories was an experience that held such solace for a person who longed to escape, and I often felt compelled to just randomly pull out titles, and take them home to meticulously study and memorize their contents. Every physical aspect of a book holds interest for my inquisitive mind – back in the day, it was the Dewey Decimal system info adhered to the spine and the card recording the book’s borrowers that sparked my fascination. In the now; it’s everything from the colour and design of the cover artwork, to the edition details, to the page detailing the typeface and publishing house. I drink this information in, almost as if it’s a part of the story itself.

My favourite authors have always been able to use words in a way that perfectly sums up the human condition. I remember reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ for the first time, and how sentences printed in black ink on light cream paper may as well have been master paintbrushes creating a visual landscape. Harper Lee was a person just like the rest of us, but she managed to accomplish the very thing that I’ve always been amazed by literature’s ability to do: she educated, affected and inspired all within the same safe space. I reached the end of that book a profoundly different person; it changed the way I see the world and the manner in which I treat others. Lessons about the absurdity of society’s class systems and the important of being true to yourself were softly delivered, yet their impact was long lasting. By immersing yourself in characters and subsequently becoming connected with them, you absorb a story in ways that can then touch and shape your own life experience, and that can be an intensely powerful thing.

I love how an author can challenge your belief system without intentionally setting out to do so. John Irving made me question a lot of things when he penned ‘A Prayer For Owen Meany’, not least of which being my own relationship with religion, and how it used to jar against my personal interpretation of faith. It takes a skilled writer to make a reader turn the spotlight on themselves and ask of who they are. For better or worse, words can seep through to things that lay within; and even provide the catalyst for change if the message is delivered well enough.

My own reason for writing is not to emulate the work of scribes I love – one could only dream of achieving such a thing – but to help me make sense of the world we live in. I like using words to add flesh to the bone, to fully capture an experience not just through details but also emotion. I write to learn about myself, to challenge myself, to remind myself to not lose hope when it comes to the stories I want to create for my own life. Words provide an access point to a person who can at times be reserved and guarded, and by using them to offer an avenue into my head and heart, I am able to share myself and provide others with the opportunity to know me. When I myself then get to read the considered words of another, I am gifted the same privilege in return. 

If I am able to connect with another human being through such means, then that holds monumental weight for the girl who so often felt isolated and alone growing up. She still lives within me, of course - but she’s learned to open herself up a little, even when it comes with risk. She does this because the experience of being fully seen, heard and understood by somebody is one of the most beautiful parts of being alive. She does this because she wants you to be a part of her story.

Sarah Moses @circustiger