Why I Write
I write because I am a narcissist and a liar.
I write because I am delusional enough to think that my words are worthy of a read.
I write because I am happier operating in a world of fantasy and hyperbole and beauty, than a world of realism and truth.
I write because Didion taught me that we tell ourselves lies to live.
And I write because I am convinced that my lies are somehow more aesthetically articulate than everybody else’s.
From a young age, I knew I could write. I knew I could arrange words with more ease and more grace than most of my peers. But Why? I couldn’t really tell you. I didn’t read very much and didn’t read very good stuff. I didn’t read Tolstoy by six or devoured Oscar Wilde’s entire body of work by eleven. I liked to read Candace Bushnell’s vapid, fashion-centric prose and Meg Cabot’s Princes’ Diaries. My father’s look of utter disappointment as he saw me devouring Plum Syke’s “Bergdorf’s Blondes” is an image that will never leave my mind.
Yet, I somehow still excelled. My teachers would praise me, and my family would do too. Writing found me and convinced me to like it. In the way, a boy you don’t like initially convinces you to like him by stroking your ego to oblivion until you are trapped and high on a trip of egotistical delusion and grandeur. It is what Orwell described as Sheer Egoism in his own version of this exercise— “Why I Write.” Sheer Egoism, the human and shameful desire that drives most writers to continue writing: the need to be celebrated for something you already know you will. This Sheer Egoism grew in me as I became better. As I read a little more and a little better. As I traded Chic-Lit for teen utopian adventures and then for dystopian classics. With each inch, I grew in my adolescence and each compliment I got from my writing —“Wow, did YOU write this?”— I slowly realized that maybe Sheer Egoism would become a central part of my life.
Not only did the compliments and the praise became addicting but so did the urge to story tell— my personal favorite euphemism for lying.
I, to this day, live by a cheesy bumper sticker line that I saw once on the back of a car on a trip from Miami to Orlando when I was about 12: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” As any 12-year-old would do, I took this at face value and applied it as a biblical truth, as an imperative rule that I would govern my life by. As an atheist, this was the closest to a credo I would come to believe in.
From then, everyone one of my anecdotes would be exaggerated and manipulated in a way to make a mundane event into an entropic, Ulyssian saga. Fantastical manipulation and an adverse repulsion to boring realism and verity became part of my identity. I became the one who weird and fantastical and incredible things would happen to because in my mind they did but slowly as I started to believe my own “storytelling,” it started to come true. By the own osmosis of a universe, we yet don’t really understand how it works— my lies became truths, and my fantasy became a reality and no, I didn’t become schizophrenic.
But to truly write and write well, lies and narcissism are not enough: you have to observe. You have to look up and pay attention and know what you are staring at and why. You have to observe yourself and others because material never comes from sheer egoism or sheer osmosis on its own, it comes from looking and looking hard. My formula being always: look, add then tell— the secret to creating ﬁction is sparkling with lies the truth you observe.
So, I write because I am an egotistical liar. And I think that my 300 words above explaining why and how and this and that, instead of just stopping at my ﬁrst sentence.
But the secret is, we all are. We all lie, every day to our neighbor who asks how we are in the elevator, or to our mom’s when they ask if we are busy or to our friends when they ask if they look good in that shirt. We lie because we need stories to survive and navigate the complexity and absurdity of this world. And the biggest lie of all is what makes us all narcissists: that we are great, greater than you or than me or that the one next to you. We need this to survive, to not drown in an existential ocean of realizations that you are one insigniﬁcant fucking piece of dust.
There you have it then, I write because I am human and I am like you and like you I lie, and I think I am better.
But I am not and from time to time when I look around and say “Shit, I am just like everybody else, I am not a snowﬂake, I am not special, I don't matter.” I pick up my pen, remember my last lie, and start writing.