*I read the picture book You Have To Write by Janet Wong to my students today, day 3 of writing camp (for high school students). They had to use the title as a prompt and compose a piece using that as a starting point. Here is MY response...(please excuse any typos...this is unedited and raw.)
I have to write?!
The reason has changed over time.
I realize that I have to write
because I agreed
because I committed
because I signed a contract
because I have what might be called the chance of a life time,
the chance I have been waiting for
for my whole life
but but but why why why don’t I feel pumped and excited about that?
why can’t I sit down and write books with ease like I could before?
before the MFA and before I signed the contract?
I have to write because
I might blow it
I might sabotage myself
I might f- it up
I might not want to
but I have to and I
have to for reasons that
are not the same as
I have to write I say when I am 9 and have my writing studio in our half basement next to the cat box because there’s no other quiet place with full privacy.
I have to write I say when I am in 4th grade and the teacher is making little awards that are supposed to boast our big achievements for the year and mine just says Ambition Is To Be An Author.
I have to write I say in fifth grade when our charge is write a children’s book and I decide to write a short story instead. The teacher accuses me of not writing it by my self. It was 10 pages and called It’s Okay To Cry.
I have to write I say in 6th grade when the Mean Girl tried to ostracize me and my revenge is to write my first full novel. I call it Rivals.
I have to write I say when I am in 8th grade. I’ve moved on to poetry inspired by a boyfriend who kissed me under a tree by the beach.
I have to write I say because when I start high school the changes in my life are so awful and the sadness is so huge the only thing I can do with it that is remotely positive is write and write and write.
I have to write I say when I am 15 and have a chance to study with some of the best at a creative arts camp. I write the first 80 pages of what will eventually be my first novel.
I have to write I say when I am 16 going to Harvard’s summer writing program with teachers like the editor of Boston Magazine and a well-known, award-winning fiction writer.
I have to write I say and I am in college minoring in writing and majoring in English.
I have to write I say and I am 24, getting married. I have to write because time is running out and I haven’t finished that book I started when I was 15.
I have to write I say and I am 28 and pregnant with my first child and I have to write because that finished book has been sitting in my computer now for 4 years and I’m going to publish it.
I have to write I say and I am 33 and committed to an MFA program and writing short story after short story for my thesis.
I have to write I say because I am 35 and starting a literary magazine and I have to write and write and write and edit and edit and edit…
Have. To. Write. Now.