I write because I can’t draw. I write because I can’t cut to the basket slick enough to go pro. I write because I eat too many sixlets and drink too much tea and my fingers get all jittery, and I have to put them somewhere. I write because, for a few pages at a time, I can make the world make sense. I write so I don’t end up trolling distant neighborhoods for pets. Not to pet. And not only pets. I write because a lot of what I read disappoints me. I write because a lot of what I read intimidates me. I write because I’m jealous. I write because I’ll drive my wife out of the house if I have to follow her around, tell her all the stories in my head. I write because I think sometimes that I know the truth. Not to say it, but how it feels. And I can sometimes glance off that if I’m not paying too much attention. I write because there’s nothing more honest that I can think of. I write because it’s not work. I write because I want more toys. I write because I don’t know what to say to people I know and love in prison. But I can send them books. I write because I love rollercoasters. I don’t write because I want to live forever. I write because I want to live now. I write because a teacher once read one of my pages, looked at me like maybe. I write because all the rest of the teachers didn’t even look at my pages before deciding about me. I write for revenge. I write because books are legal, and other things aren’t. I write because I can’t sing like Bonnie Tyler. I write because writing matters. I write because if I don’t, I get trapped counting and cutting and cutting and counting. I write because when I’m not writing, I go out and do things that land me in the emergency room. Because I want the world to feel like it should. Like it does on the page. I write because I can’t learn to play harmonica. I write because books have saved my life. I write because I’m petty. I write because lying is the best thing ever. I write because I hate to be lied to. I write because I want to run across the caliche, but that’s too secret to tell. I write because I sometimes feel like I have too many secrets, too many almosts. I write because I don’t know what to do at dinner parties other than go inside my head, where it’s safe. I write because I’ve always been standing in the corner, even when I’m not. I write to scare people. I write to make people laugh. I write to let people cry. I write to hide. I write to see what I’m thinking. I write because the stories are coming out one way or another. I write because once upon a time I read the exact perfect book, and it changed me forever. I write because fiction is magic. You can reach across centuries to another person with it. Across galaxies. I write because my kids might not ever really know me the right way if I don’t. I write because I’m always afraid I’m about to die, because I always wake expecting to die and trying to do jittery little finger combinations to ward it off. I write because special effects are easy, on the page. Provided you’ve got those effects in your head. I write because I might luck on to something nobody else has ever even tried before. I write because I want so badly to just go the party, please. As a person. I write because if I don’t, then I can’t think of what else to try to do. People always ask me this, why I write. And it never makes the right kind of sense, that question. So I just stand there kind of squinting, looking around for when I can leave. Then they ask what inspires me. This makes a bit more sense, but not really. I’m never inspired. I’m always inspired. Inspire is the wrong word. I’m compelled. There are stories out there. There are stories in here. And I’m going as fast as I can, trying to trap them on a page in a way that they can still be alive. That we can still see them flying. That we can still hook on, go away with them. People sometimes write me and call me and tell me that this story I made up, I didn’t make it up at all. It’s their story. But it was mine too, for a little bit. I write because one life isn’t long enough. I write because I lost all my action figures long ago. The game went on, though. The game never stopped.
This essay originally appeared in Stymie.
Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels and six story collections. Most recent are Mapping the Interior, from Tor.com and the comic book My Hero, from Hex Publishers. Stephen lives and teaches in Boulder, Colorado.