Love Letter to Writing

15 Apr

by Kat


I want to write today about writing. I just finished reading another writer’s interview, and she said, as have so many writers before her, that writing is a need for her. A passion. Something she has to have like breathing. Something she can’t live without. And I nodded and agreed and went on to finish the interview.

But then I thought about people I’ve spoken with, ones to whom I’ve explained my need for writing, and they’ve sort of just laughed or were plain confused by it and told me so. And I realized that there are probably people out there who read about writers saying these sort of things and don’t actually believe it. They feel like it’s just hyperbole, like when people say “I LOVE chocolate. I couldn’t LIVE without chocolate.”

Okay, so maybe there are actually people who feel about chocolate like I feel about writing, and I just don’t understand because I don’t love chocolate like they do. But that’s the point. I don’t feel the same way, and so when people say “I can’t live without chocolate,” I think they’re just exaggerating.

Well, this post exists to explain that when I say I have to write like I have to breathe, I’m not exaggerating as much as people might think, and I know this is true for others, as well. The super-literal part of me has to say that hello, yes, I’m not being ENTIRELY truthful. Yes, of course, if forced to by pain of death or whatever, I could live a perfectly fine life without writing. No, writing is not exactly like food or breathing.

But I’m not just throwing out hyperbole either. I love traveling. I love biology. I love puppies and musicals and dance and singing and reading and the high after a long run. But not like I love writing. Not like I need writing.

I write when I’m happy and need to share. I writing when I’m bursting with excitement and feel like I couldn’t even sit down unless I released some of that feeling into a poem. I write when I’m depressed or angry or frustrated. I write to figure out what I’m feeling. To better define who I am. To better understand what I’m doing in this world. And that is not a tiny bit of exaggeration.

Being a writer is a part of me, always. I shatter a plate in the school cafeteria, and even as the embarrassment rises, I’m noting down the flush in my skin and the feeling in my nose and the thoughts running through my head so I can contribute them to my next depiction of embarrassment. I have the best day of my life, and I’m taking mental notes of how this feels, on how the whole day shines a bit, on the exact feelings I get when I share the news. Is this weird? I don’t even know; I’ve been automatically doing it so long.

Not writing creatively for more than a week drives me crazy. I get antsy. I think my patience gets shorter. It’s like being claustrophobic. I’m used to living two or even three lives at once. One suddenly feels too small.

And when I say—when any writer says—that we live in the worlds we create, we are not lying, either. At least I’m not. My characters are very real and very dear to me. Not psychological-thriller-movie-about-schizophrenia real, not even imaginary friend real (I’m not sure—I never had a true imaginary friend), but real in a way I can’t quite explain. Yes, I realize perfectly well they’re figments of my imagination. But you try spending more than a year, maybe MUCH more than a year, thinking about certain figments of your imagination, about their pasts and their futures, analyzing their motives, their dreams, their relationships with one another. Do you spend that long thinking about many REAL people?

This doesn’t mean that I know every single detail about every single character I’ve made up, but it does mean that the details of the better developed ones seem to float in some nether-space, and when I need to know one of them, I’m pinning it down rather than making it up.

I’m probably talking to the utterly wrong audience here. You probably wouldn’t be here reading this blog unless you were a writer yourself, but maybe you’re not, or maybe you know someone who doesn’t quite understand—who thinks that we’re wildly exaggerating when we gush about our need to write. Which is perfectly normal. People exaggerate all the time.

But this, at least for me, is not exaggeration.


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and her book HYBRID–about a girl with two souls–recently sold to Harper Children’s. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.


27 Responses to “Love Letter to Writing”

  1. Patricia April 15, 2011 at 2:24 AM #

    You put that very well. Yes – that’s the way it is. Yet I don’t think non-writers can be made to understand even partly.
    IT’s okay if they enjoy what we write without knowing why we do it 🙂

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 7:33 AM #

      Certainly 🙂 Thank you for reading!

  2. Christina Decker April 15, 2011 at 3:17 AM #

    Loved this post and feel the exact same way about everything you said- except for the loving to run part. 😉 I sometimes wish I didn’t need writing the way I do. Sometimes I love it and I hate it, but I always need it. The need haunts me and sometimes feels like a burden. A burden that I love.

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 7:34 AM #

      Hahaha, yeah, I’ve heard the runnig part’s sort of unique ;P I’m really glad you liked the post.

  3. Aurora Blackguard April 15, 2011 at 7:51 AM #

    Some people don’t get that feeling when you get an idea, when you get a feeling, when you UNDERSTAND something about someone unreal on this plane of existence but so real in your head, you just NEED to sit down and tell their story. Stories run throughout our lives and we never really understand that every single one of us is a storyteller in our own small ways, some of us more than others. and since we write, we the people who put finger to key and nib to paper, we tend to feel MORE for it. If people don’t understand how our fingers yearn to write, then it’s okay because we understand it!

    Thanks for this, Kat 🙂 Really inspiring!

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 10:27 AM #

      Thank you! 🙂

  4. Rowenna April 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM #

    I’ve always loved this quote: “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for” (Jospeh Addison) I think writing gives you all three–something productive, something you’re passionate about, and the constant hopefullness that comes from continuing to create and share. A person doesn’t have to understand it about writing, but I do think that everyone has or ought to have an equal level of passion about something in their life. Even if it’s chocolate.

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM #

      I love that quote, too, Rowenna! And I totally agree about the passion 🙂

  5. J. Koyanagi April 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM #

    It is so true that when you’re a writer, it’s part of who you are; you can’t be divorced from it. I loved this, Kat.

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 11:22 AM #

      Thanks 🙂

  6. Gabriela Da Silva April 15, 2011 at 11:34 AM #

    I have tried to stop saying that I couldn’t live without writing, or that writing is like breathing to me. It makes people roll their eyes, or just nod without trying to understand.

    The thing is, they’re half-right. We would probably be quite alright if we stopped writing – better off than we would if, say, we stopped eating or breathing.

    Now, I’m blunt, I like shocking people. So instead of saying “writing is like air to me”, I’ve taken to saying things like “If I stopped writing, I would become so depressed I’d en up killing myself. Jump off a building, dunno.”

    *That* makes people think twice about how important can art be for the artists. It doesn’t sound half as nice as equating it with breathing, but lately I find that it works.

    Lovely post, Kat =)

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 12:15 PM #

      lol! That is one way to get it across ;]

  7. Ellen April 15, 2011 at 12:07 PM #

    I ❤ you and I ❤ this post.

    YES. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain this to my family, or non-writer friends, who just kind of smile and shrug. It's one of those things you can only fully understand if you do it too.

    Life's been getting in the way of a lot lately, and even when I was feeling at my lowest, putting three hundred words on a page–no matter how crappy they were–made me feel better.

    You captured that feeling, that need to do this, perfectly here. Nice work!

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM #

      :] ❤

      I'm sorry about life getting you down lately, but I'm glad writing is helping you get through it. Hope things get better soon!

  8. Ty Barbary April 15, 2011 at 12:16 PM #

    … the details of the better developed ones seem to float in some nether-space, and when I need to know one of them, I’m pinning it down rather than making it up.

    So nice to know it’s not just me. I always call it discovery, rather than creation or design, and I don’t know how many people really get the difference. I’m glad some other writers do!

    This was a great post. 🙂

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM #

      Thank you, Ty! I told this as a kid to my parents once, and I think they got a little concerned, lol.

  9. Ella April 15, 2011 at 12:29 PM #




    So long as I’m moving forward and going somewhere; so long as I care enough to try and understand the world around me, I’ll be writing. So long as I’ve got enough strength of imagination to live a dozen lives in a dozen other worlds, I’ll do so. So long as I value thinking, wondering, questioning, and creating, I’ll be a storyteller.

    I sometimes compare my characters to alternate personalities. They’re themselves, yet they’re parts of me at the same time. They’re imaginary, but they’re an intrinsic part of my reality. They do the things I can’t and go the places where I belong. They help me. They teach me things. To me, they’re often realer than real people.

    Writing is more than a passion, I think. It’s a lifestyle.

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 4:47 PM #

      What a lovely comment 🙂 And very true.

  10. Sarah J. Maas April 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM #


  11. Sarah Brand April 15, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    Well said. I haven’t been writing lately (a combination of a post-novel dry spell and senior year craziness), and not having that outlet is starting to wear on me, to say the least. Three weeks to go…

    • Kat Zhang April 15, 2011 at 6:38 PM #

      Thanks, Sarah 🙂 And yes, senior year is really crazy. But you’ll be graduating soon! Yay!

  12. Ashley April 16, 2011 at 3:11 AM #

    I feel you Kat :). Even on my worst days when I want to resign myself and quit writing “forever”, I know I can’t. I can’t switch off my brain from plotting out story lines, thinking up character names and ticks. There’s just something in me that has to do it, and won’t let me stop.

    Great post, really reminds you why you’re a writer in the first place. 🙂

    • Kat Zhang April 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM #

      Thanks, Ashley 🙂

  13. Audrey May 1, 2011 at 12:22 PM #

    Wow, that was so lovely. I’m not a serious writer, but I love to read this blog and this just shows how passionate everyone in the writing world it.
    I notice in your bio you’re a Spoken Word poet, and I kind of wanted to let you know I posted a spoken word poem on my blog today, about Words, and I think you might like it =)

    • Kat Zhang May 1, 2011 at 1:03 PM #

      Thank you, Audrey! And yes, I quite liked the poem you posted. He’s got a nice style 🙂


  1. This Week’s Links | Inventing The Universe | J. Koyanagi - April 15, 2011

    […] Kat Zhang writes a love letter to writing. […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: