Why Do I Write?

Why Do I Write?

The Magical Sensory Experience of Being Alive

Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash

“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?”

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why am I a writer?

If I could spend most of my days writing, in chosen isolation, I probably would. But why? (And why can’t I? That is a different topic for another time).

Today I am going to explore a few of the many of the reasons why I write.

I write to begin.

To prepare the garden bed, I must weed. I must pull and dig, clear away death and debris, find who made a home among the thistles, and encourage them to leave. I must turn over the earth and find the deep-rooted and stubborn weeds, as even in their home’s destruction, they will still find a way to hoard the nutrients.

In this preparation, I find the tree frog and the praying mantis. I find what grasses will cut my fingers in my unwillingness to wear garden gloves. I am surprised by the snake and the orb-weaver and the wonderment of their gorgeous markings. I am forced to look at what went untended, in order to clear for the new.

Writing is like this. Even when not putting pen to page or fingers to keys, writing is like this.

I write to witness, document, and honor being alive.

Writing is a magical, sensory experience. Through writing I organize and remember, manifest, and connect. I can hear harmony in the humming of the street lights. I am aware of the shift in the seasons, a winter hint in summer or an autumn glimpse in spring. I see more in people’s eyes. I can tell when someone hasn’t had the turn to speak, or when a voice has not been heard. I have become an empath, for better or worse. I have turned around a corner to smell the ghost of my grandfather, gone some 30 years.

I write to access my emotions.

I fear my own rage and my deepest trauma of sorrow. To surface these parts of me, at times I fear, would rattle the house and crack the earth wide open. My expression of my emotions do not actually have that much power, but they are pushed away regardless. But in writing, I can feel them safely. A character, a poetic phrase, a memory twisted into metaphor can bring tears and trembling. I can access the childhood sadness and the immense joy of simply being alive. To write is to live. To live is write. Writing is the breath and heartbeat of my wildest and most basic needs.

I write to read.

I often remind my students to read like a writer and write like a reader. This doesn’t always make sense to them. I think about the human experience: real, known, unconscious, and nebulous. When I am writing and thus reading, I look for the many ways people experience life. In the communication of our shared journey, we are not alone.

I write to read how you, the writer, might have lived through loss, shame, victory, darkness, evil, and redemption. I read to write about how I have lived through decisions, parenthood, eating disorders, anxiety, deep love, consistency, mental illness, loss, debt, sorrow, confusion, and awakening. I write and read to honor writers and all of the common and strange ways we are human.

Why do you, dear readers, write?

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Thank you for reading. Here are some links to previous work:Cut Yourself Open (And Let Your Writing Heal You)
What locked boxes are hidden deep in your closet?medium.com
My Personal Philosophy of Education
My Educational Philosophymedium.com

Under Mars

Thoughts About Thoughts About Thoughts

Photo by Martin Widenka on Unsplash

You go to the kitchen anxious. This is no way to greet your husband and the coffee he just made. But there it is. It’s almost sunrise. You cannot place your worry, and so it lingers in a physical need. You wrap your arms around his body sideways. He turns to you and wraps you into his chest. Fridge door light on you both, his hand releases the half and half.

What’s wrong?

He knows you. He knows your answer will be that you don’t know what’s wrong. Nothing is wrong. Everything is wrong. He’s on to you. He knows that you have been awake for a while. He knows that unconsciously you made a decision you might regret. Or not. It doesn’t need to be decided now. He isn’t psychic. You have patterns. He caught you still dreaming.

You both do the counting on your fingers and the deep breath you exhale. This exercise comes from the book you brought home to read with your son. You are worried that your son worries too much so this is a book about kids with anxiety. You know you brought this book home for yourself, too. You try the gratitude.

I’m grateful for you and for peanut butter and jelly.

He was in the middle of packing your child’s lunchbox. You sound silly to yourself, always the harshest judge. So you add intellectual silliness.

It’s just an amazing combination of flavors.

Your worries were there a minute ago. What was wrong? Hadn’t you been spinning since 4:30 or so? Is that the time the SSRI begins waning? Maybe you should up the meds. Maybe you should blame Mars for being so intense in your chart. Maybe blame the constant government chatter, the nothing that is being done, the injustice, your social media show and tell, is it enough? is it too much? The bills to pay late.

You know what will help you. Coffee.

And writing.

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Thank you readers! Here are some links to some of my earlier writings:Called by the Magistrate
A Poem Masquerademedium.com
Visions of Patching
A Memoir in Versemedium.com

Following my Mom across the Pasture

A poetry memoir

Purple Martin Houses — Samantha Lazar

Lazy Saturday filled with talks, dogs, hours
moving sunlight
announcing blooms

It is spring on our land after all

Which mums to move
and herbs to weed
New raspberry
What course to take

I am her, and she is me
and as she ages,
I must too.

The willow’s grown
Will we have peaches this year?
That is always the hope,
she says.

Attempting to bring the horses down
I’m in no hurry,she says, are you?

Suddenly everything
is tears
and I don’t know why — 
but I do

She calls me to come see
a mouse grown fat
safe under the grain bucket

I am frozen — 
flip flops, rutty earth
salt spring, jasmine
my mother’s voice,
calling the horse
the small visitor

April wind — 
I see it all
this moment how precious.
And she tells me to not be
afraid of the mouse.

We both laugh again
pretending that is
what I see.

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Originally published here.

A Child I Am

A poem

Name Art Doodles by Samantha Lazar

A child I am — 
getting ready
high on a new set
of brilliant pens
fanned out on my floor
each color tested-
flourished doodles
my name your name
gorgeous drips
butterfly fantasy
vessels and profiles
planets and alphabet
outlined letters
a thousand tiny spirals
I have the time — 
shades of purples
blended and faded
oh! trees and roots
wildflowers and hands
holding April
on a new canvas-
Life! How unfolding
this paper fortune
I am still the same.

Originally published at https://medium.com/@LazarSamantha/a-child-i-am-1ea162b50c40

Still Waiting (2)

Still Waiting (2)

My dad may die tonight
There is a helplessness taken hold
Left outside the door like his own
Father confused and lost down the street
Who just needed to get out of that Apartment
but could not find his way back
Frightening sure
but fine all the same
While the worry settling in from this Late summer-
the worst kinds of moons
Rattled tides and washed up triggers
Send it back
I am not interested in the humanity
Of these memories

My dad may not die tonight
But I may not sleep
There is too much
not to do that
I will look for a list to make until
My restlessness will overtake me
And in it, a staggering realization
Like his mother knowing her mind was gone or
Slipping but too late to even succumb
To anger
I am numb
until I can wait no longer

We are leaving without you

The Diamond or the Egg (excerpt)

The Diamond or the Egg

Samantha Lazar


The wrapper, melted onto the candy, made more noise than Alex could take.  She had finally found a place to be alone, buckled into the back seat of the Toyota Starlet, directly behind her mom. She held the candy in her lap, and desperately scraped her nails against the slick plastic.

“How was Grandma’s?” her mom caught her eyes in the rearview mirror at a stop sign.  

“Fine,” Alex said, “but practice was hard today.”

“You are getting so strong! Did you have to do underwater drills today?”

“Mmmhmm,” Alex looked out the window. Tiny beadlets of rain drifted down the window. Alex played a game she often did with raindrops.  Each drop was a traveler, and she had only a moment to name them and give them a story before they traveled to the end of the window. There is Sally, on her way to New Zealand. She will meet a sheep herder and have a  baby…

After a minute, her fingers felt the edges of the wrapper, and Alex was as determined as she had been to get to the end of the pool without coming up for air, mind over matter…mind over matter, her lungs burning, but her want to win burned more. “Nope, start over! “Her coach called out at the edge of the pool when Alex’s head gasped above water only five meters left.  

Now the candy was finally free from its sleeve and without looking for her mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror, she popped it into her mouth.

Strawberry fireworks and dreamy sugar- it was so worth it, she thought.

“What’s in your mouth?”  It was her mom.

“Candy,” Alex drooled a little bit when she said it.

“Where did you get it?”  The car drifted over the line; her mom turned around in her seat to look directly at Alex.

The tears just flew out. She couldn’t stop.  She did not understand why she took it. She just could have asked her grandma for the candy. But the Pick-a-Mix station was too inviting. It was just too tempting, and she wanted it. She didn’t want to ask for three cents. She told herself they were free samples.  Everyone could just have one, right? Ten minutes later, she paid the grocery store manager for the candy and apologized through tears for stealing.

It was Saturday again. Alex spun around in her bathing suit. The thick soft carpet of her grandparents’ living room hugged her toes. Her long brown hair was still wet from swim team practice, and she danced pretending she was the prima ballerina. She could smell the barley soup cooking on the stove, and she could not wait to eat. Her grandma hummed something that sounded like “You are my Sunshine”  in the kitchen.

As she spun and leaped on her tippy toes in her imagined ballet slippers, she smiled at the familiar painting above the couch, a boy and girl walking in the woods. Then there was the other stuff she had always known:  the bird house clock tick tick tick tick, the bronze chicken statue, the collection of eggs on shelves, blue marble, and blown glass, ceramic and plastic- gifts from over the years from clients of the Egg Company, her grandparents’ business. Around she spun: boy and girl in the woods, tick tick tick tick, chicken and eggs, kids in the woods, tick tick tick tick, chicken and eggs. She felt quite dizzy when she stopped in front of the egg collection. Applause and roses rained down on her from all corners of her mind, and she stood transfixed.

At eye level, there was a miniature basket of eggs. Alex giggled. It was the cutest little basket. It had woven fibers and the littlest blue eggs. Alex imagined it sitting on the littlest kitchen table in her doll house.  Tiny and secret and easily hid. And the next moment, the basket of eggs was in her palm and then in her swim bag that hung on the pegs.

The front door startled Alex, and it was her grandpa, grinning slyly at her.  His grey hair was slicked over to the side, a golf bag slid off his shoulder.

“Hello, my beautiful!”  He picked Alex up and spun her around, “What’s cooking?”

“Soup is ready!” her grandma called them in for lunch.


Give me a feeling that I can feel

 What side effect is this age
Of chasing the screen and panic abater
Push back harder against my cold shoulder
This manic elixir that keeps me drawn further
Beneath what could cut my willingness to bleed
Give me something worth worrying about
But don't, because running will lapse all the spinning
I've been here before
On the brink of inspiration
But I may have shrunk this year
And it's on the top shelf
that not even partnership can reach
Give me a heartbeat worth swooning about
Lets run ourselves wild
like we did when the edge of getting caught
was enough to keep us
awake all night

Little (excerpt 2)

When I was little, I was a flying champion swinger.  I could swing for hours and hours, a little aspiring trapeze artist, although we only had about 13 minutes of recess.  And that was only if we weren’t made to stand silent on the painted footprints on the black- top, our backs turned toward the screaming delight of our classmates. Standing silent on the those footprints meant we had gotten our names on the board with a check, and possibly two checks if we had been especially naughty.  Our music teacher, Mrs. Gish, was constantly putting our names on the board. It was just that she was a source of ridicule. She had been seen, at some legendary date, putting what we thought was lipstick, on the tip of her nose, where a small wart lived. She was seen, probably by a sixth grader, the source of all things known and unknown in the school, applying some cosmetic while hiding behind a cubby in the band room.  From then on, we third graders had a really hard time singing for her, playing our recorders for her without short bursts of contagious laughter behind her back. She could only guess who had started it. And so it went that the last child left smiling when she looked up from the piano, was sent to stand on the footprints at recess.

When I was not in trouble, I would often participate in the flying contest.  It was not so much about the swinging, as it was about the leaping off from your swing and landing on your feet, no matter how badly the stab to the heel and then up to the knees. To win you had to land on your feet and from a great height, furiously pumped. There was the one, two, three, and all would leap that forbidden arc.  One day, when I was involved in this contest, feeling quite confident in my abilities, I found myself flat on my back and unable to move.

Little (excerpt 1)

When I was a little kid, I saw visions often. My brain would tell my eyes to see things, and there they would be.  It was often when I was trying to fall asleep. I would see little things floating in front of my eyes as if they were on a carousel. Sometimes it would be items that made sense together- like toys- a rocking horse, a jack in the box, some marbles, a doll- floating in a rainbow arc and around in a circle.  Notice me, they would say. They would be there with my eyes open to the twilight coming in the window. They would be there when I shut my eyes- blue black with flashing yellow. They were real to me. Sometimes, the visions would be unpleasant- like ants in a pile or a wasps’ nest. I knew they were not real, but I thought I could still play with them- no matter how much I wanted them to go away. I would squeeze my eyes tighter- shutting out any possible thing from attacking me through the slits of my eye lids, and there the floating visions would be.  Once I saw people, strange small monsters walking towards me. They kept coming and would never reach me, but they kept coming, There they were in three dimension- I may have been able to shake their hands- find out what they were really about, but they never quite reached me. They would just back up and then come towards me again. I always wondered where these visions came from.  

I sometimes would try to play games with my own mind.  Sometimes during library time, I would try to feel dead.  Just blank unknowing. Nothing. I found it quite impossible though.  I would think about these things as 7 year old. Use my imagination to manifest a feeling.  I was quite good at it. I could alter dreams- have control over the outcomes. I could will myself into a flying dream- or into something I wanted to actually feel scared of.   I thought I had control over what happened. If I wished hard enough, something would happen. If I willed it, a bunch of wrapped presents would appear under my bed.  Or my dad would come home and play with me. Of course I did not have control over these things, but it did not stop the little me from trying and continuing to wish.  

When you wash your hair

Tomorrow or the next day or Monday morning, you will remember the purity of your skin. The places of pleasure and unspeakable longing for healing are both the same. The water will remind you that your lungs are working and the pulse of your next move does not need to be decided by the time soap spirals down the drain. You will be gentle with your bruises, and you will lather the lavender on your beautiful strength. And this momentous morning, the same as tomorrow, will help you gather the days of your wisdom.