Writer-Me: Defining “Purpose” On My Own Terms

(Yup, I’m back).

I just returned from a writing retreat in Costa Rica, the third year in a row I’ve done it. Not only has that special country become my spirit home, through the retreat experience I’ve come to embrace writer-me.

I wrote non-stop as a kid and into my 20s. First, silly little stories, then a lot of poetry. I won contests and got published. I produced two of my own chapbooks. Then, after two university degrees, I entered what people refer to as “the real world” and quit writing creatively. Looking back now, I believe that contributed as much to my burn-out as anything else.

Why did I stop writing? Because I didn’t understand its purpose.

Growing up in a family of business people, farmers, and teachers, I felt alien among very practical people. My creativity was encouraged and I got to attend art camps and writing camps and all the dance classes I wanted, yet there was always the lingering question, but what’s the purpose?

I didn’t have an answer that the adults who mattered to me would understand. I wrote because that’s who I was. I was flummoxed and demoralized when the adults I wanted to be seen by wanted to know what I could “get” for my writing. What money, what job, what publication? I was just being me; I didn’t have a business model for it.

At this year’s retreat, I introduced myself to the other writers by summarizing the journey I’d taken to get back to personal writing:

Costa Rica Year 1: Am I still a writer?

Costa Rica Year 2: I’ve always been a writer, what kind of writer am I now?

Costa Rica Year 3: I am writing.
Since last year’s retreat, I completed a 50-page manuscript of all-new poems. I began research on a large, long-term creative non-fiction project about a real-life woman who fascinates me. And, I’ve started mining my own life’s content to practice the skills I’ll need for that project: writing prose, scenes, dialog, character, dot-dot-dot.

I write because I must, without caring about being published again, and despite a lifetime of programming that there’s no “good” reason to spend time this way. My reason is this: if you want to know me, you need to read me. And to know myself, I need to write. That’s why I’m getting back to posting here. I will continue to post experiences/lessons learned, but also, now, my poetry and prose, too.

It feels exposing and necessary.

Thank you for reading.

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3 thoughts on “Writer-Me: Defining “Purpose” On My Own Terms

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  1. Loved the summary and the brief back story. Re purpose: a character in a genre-fiction detective novel I once read said “The purpose of life is to be there.”
    One can’t really “be there” without exploring the “who am I? questions. I think you have found a right (write) purpose.
    Look forward to reading more of your posts thoughts, prose, poetry…


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