Why I Write
Joseph Riley-Portuges -- December 22, 2006
Joseph Riley-Portuges is young for a writer, the youngest to have been published in Ink Byte Magazine. (But don't let that stop you. -- ed) Joseph's essay raises one of the reoccurring questions that that writers deal with.
I started writing a couple of years ago because I didn't know what else to do. I had recently had an epiphany--that I would not live eternally and this scared me. I started thinking about how life didn't mean anything because we were all doomed to death anyhow. This realization was brought upon from a source I never would have expected--my English teacher. One day in class we were discussing romantic literature, and she kept repeating that we were all going to die one day. The first few times she said this I thought nothing of it, but around the third or fourth redundancy something pierced me, and I felt an internal change. My stomach began to churn, and I started feeling lightheaded. I wrote this off as a momentary passing, but the idea stuck in my head for the next two months, and I had a sense of gross moroseness.
Christmas time had come, and I was still feeling unimportant, but slightly improved. For Christmas I asked for The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, the ultimate in "airport" literature. I read it over the break and absolutely loved it. My dad then came home with a copy of Angels and Demons, also by Dan Brown. At first I was reticent. I felt I had already read one more novel than my school required me to, why read another?
The book just sat on my desk staring at me, but I ignored it for several weeks. Finally one day when I figured I had nothing better to do, I picked it up and began to read. I raced through this book as well. After I finished, I was again feeling a little too proud of myself for what the material offered.
Another week had passed, and I had no desire to read another novel, until I saw one of my schoolmates reading On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. I saw the way several other students were impressed by Kerouac. I knew I'd had a copy at home that my dad had given me years prior; I immediately began reading it, for no better reason than to converse with those in my class who had read it. I loved it. I finished it as quickly as I could, even forgoing my Friday and Saturday nights to stay home and read. When I was coming toward the end, I decided that I didn't want to finish. I was in quite a dilemma: there were about 20 pages left, but I didn't want to stop. I loved all the characters and the situations in this book and honestly felt my quality of life would decline once I no longer had it to read.
Then again in English class I noticed a student for whom I had extreme respect for his intellect. He was reading a book I had never heard of and can't remember, but an idea struck me with the subtly of a hurricane: I could start another book. I know this seems like an obvious conclusion to draw, but at the time I was still resistant to the idea of embracing reading. That afternoon I went immediately to Chaucer's Bookstore and bought several other books. (One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Fight Club).
One night, several months, and dozens of books later, I was sitting in my room when I thought of a sentence that struck me. I went to write it down and a page came from what was a sentence. From this page came several more, and I had started my own novel. I found it an intriguing development; my fictional character's lives excited me because I didn't know what was to come next. The idea of my own book just felt right. Prior to this I had read The Great Gatsby, and I was so amazed that 80 years later this book was still relevant. It made me want to write and have the same effect on a kid 80 years from now that Fitzgerald had on me. By writing I felt that I could somehow eternalize a part of myself, for what it's worth.
Since then I have added a hundred pages to my novel, written several short stories, poems, and songs; I have read scores more books--all in an attempt to improve my writing ability and expand my mind. I have heard several successful authors speak on why they wanted to write, and they all have said the same thing: writing is eternal. That settled it for me, no matter what I do, I want to write, hopefully to find a place in eternity.