Because It Is All We Know
by Emma S.
If the average bookworm or author had a dime for every time she was asked, “Why do you read so much?” or “Why do you write?” she could afford to stay home and solely read, write, or both. Those questions are intertwined; therefore, they should be addressed simultaneously. One may read to find someone like herself or, perhaps, because it is just what she does. There is no single answer to why we read or write; instead, there is an infinite number.
Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a young adult novel about a fanfiction writer during her freshman year of college. During the protagonist Cath’s first day in an advanced creative writing class, the professor asks her students why they write fiction.
One of the older students, a guy, decided he was game. “To express ourselves,” he offered.
“Sure,” Professor Piper said. “Is that why you write?”
The guy nodded.
“Okay. Why else?”
“Because we like the sound of our own voices,” a girl said…
“Yes,” Professor Piper laughed… “That’s why I write, definitely. That’s why I teach.” They all laughed with her. “Why else?”
Why do I write? Cath tried to come up with a profound answer—knowing she wouldn’t speak up, even if she did.
“To explore new worlds,” someone said.
“To explore old ones,” someone else said…
To be somewhere else, Cath thought.
“So,” Professor Piper purred. “Maybe to make sense of ourselves?”
“To set ourselves free,” a girl said.
To get free of ourselves.
“To show people what it’s like inside our heads,” said a boy…
“To make people laugh.”
“To get attention.”
“Because it’s all we know.”
“Speak for yourself,” the professor said. “I play the piano. But keep going—I love this. I love it.”
“To stop hearing the voices in our head,” said the boy in front of Cath…
To stop, Cath thought. To stop being anything or anywhere at all.
“To leave our mark… To create something that will outlive us.”
The boy in front of Cath spoke up again: “Asexual reproduction.”
Cath imagined herself at her laptop. She tried to put into words how it felt, what happened when it was good, when it was working, when the words were coming out of her before she knew what they were, bubbling up from her chest, like rhyming, like rapping, like jump-roping, she thought, jumping just before the rope hit your ankles.
“To share something true,” another girl said…
Cath shook her head.
“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.
To disappear. (21-23)
Everyone reads or writes for a different reason. Indeed, there are many answers in that quote from Fangirl alone; however, there are many more to discuss.
We read to escape a cruel and unfair world—especially because knowing characters have problems, as well, is reassuring. We write to create a world of our own invention where we can escape. So many preteens, teens, and college students suffer from bullying, anxiety, depression, and a plethora of other problems. If they can dive into a book and flee our world for even a little while, their hopes are boosted. If they can write so much that it feels as if a great burden has been lifted, then the world is a better place.
Two important facets of reading are to learn and to be entertained. Reading makes better writers, and writing make better readers. We read because we thirst for knowledge—whether it be historical, scientific, cultural, psychological, or something else entirely. Conversely, we write to share that knowledge. We read to be inspired, which is especially important to a writer, who often composes to inspire. Additionally, reading provides hours upon hours of enjoyment. Books are wells of information and entertainment.
We read and write because words are the breath of life. Language is powerful. In the mouth of God, they create something out of nothing. In a human mouth, words ignite wars, love, and friendships. Words can be a spark in a creative person’s mind, which could lead to the next bestseller, the next top one hundred song, the next great invention, etc. The possibilities are endless, and they can inspire and cause feelings in others, which continues the cycle.
We read to learn how others feel. We read and write to feel something, anything, or perhaps even to be changed. There are still a vast number of reasons, and it would take pages to cover them all. But perhaps, all these reasons can be summed up in two sentences. We read to know we are not alone. We read because it is all we know.