Why I Write

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

August 19, 2014

The Writer's LifeI write, therefore I am.

It seems easy to answer when writing feels akin to drawing breath. But it’s as complicated as trying to explain how the lungs function. Writer, Robin Flanigan, invited me to ponder this question in a blog hop that considers the reasons why we write.

Today, I’m dogged by details. After last week’s post, When the Wolves Give Chase, I’m tempted to say, I’m wolfed. A project that I’ve been working on with a client since April has been tricky at best. Why? Because it’s greatly detailed, thus requires spot-on accuracy and involves multiple interested parties.

And not the kind of parties that are fun.

I’m talking about a financial manager, board directors, a general manager, a marketing manager and her team of communicators. Then there’s the contractors I work with–the designer, the writers, the printer, the digital team. The first thing I crafted for this project was the timeline: who–>does what–>by when.

The first thing that failed? Yes, the timeline. Interested parties began citing their vacations and I re-invented a new timeline, adapting it to who was going to be gone when. Second timeline has worked.

Today was the accumulation of all the details, ready to pass on to the designer. We had a few major glitches gracefully resolved by key parties (toot horns and toss confetti) and are on track as of 45 minutes ago. Whew…

So why do I mention this under the title of why I write? Because one answer is communication. I write to communicate. While projects are challenging and miscommunications frustrating, ultimately it is the challenge of communicating that is exciting, connecting and fulfilling.

But it’s not the reason I ever bought my first notebook and started to write about Silver Chalmers and why her English father returned to England after managing the Silver City mines in California from 1856 to 1864. That I started to write because I wanted to know why the real “Lord” Chalmers (as he was called in my home-county of Alpine) built such a fancy mansion way up in the granitic mountains of the Sierra Nevadas for a wife he left. The old-timers told me she rode to meet the stage every week, awaiting his return until she was committed to the insane asylum in Carson City, Nevada.

I write because I love history’s mysteries, I love a good story and I love to be a part of the unraveling. Later I discovered what many writers do–that if you write into a story it will push back into you with ideas you didn’t know you had. At a writer’s retreat at a Franciscan Center I learned that this was writing into truth. I write because it feels like a brave thing to do.

Yet, there are some things I don’t write about. Some truths are too dark, too painful and I decided long ago that they would not rule over me. I was brave in leaving, of getting out of a bad situation and I’m not going back there with my writing. My writing belongs to me, not them, and I will use it for my own purposes.

I write to communicate, to understand behavior through history, to tell stories, to push into the truth of who I am at the core. I am not my past. I am not my age, my reflection in a mirror; I am not my car, my clothes my stuff. I am a writer. And every day I write myself anew.

Tag–you are it: I’m passing the baton from Robin Flanigan on to Ruchira Khanna, Ellen Muholland and Lori Schafer. These three woman have boldly pressed into their own writing and have authored books. I hope that this blog hop is a chance for them to tell you why they write and also about why they wrote their books.

Carry on, writers!


Ruchira Khanna is just another soul trying to make a difference in this lifetime by juggling between my passion and responsibilities.

A Biochemist turned Writer who draws inspiration from various sources and tries to pen them down to create awareness within her and the society. Recently published a novel, which peeps into every one’s daily life named, “Choices”  She is working on a children’s book, which should be out this year.

A Reiki Master in her spare time where she passes out information about channeling universal energy and conducts sessions.


Ellen Plotkin Mulholland grew up in San Bernardino, California. After earning her degree in Journalism and English Literature at the University of Southern California, she moved to London. There she wrote her first novel, bagged beans, stood in the snow for a bus, and watched the trees change colors in fall. Today she teaches academic strategies to struggling adolescents while marveling in the exploits of her own kids. She is the author of “This Girl Climbs Trees,” a first person narrative following one teen’s quest for life’s answers, and “Birds on a Wire,” a coming out of age tale. She is nearly finished with her third YA that focusses on a young girl’s obsessions and her fight to find her place in this world.

“Why I Write” by Ellen Mulholland


Loris Schafer is a writer of serious prose and humorous erotica and romance. More than thirty of her short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, and her first novel, a work of women’s fiction entitled My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged, will be released in 2015. Also forthcoming in 2015 is her second novel Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged. On the more serious side, her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, will be published in October 2014.


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  1. tallypendragon.com

    What a brilliant thought! It’s a long time since anyone got me thinking about why I write. Approximately 14 years! I wrote a trite article for the Holy Trinity Times (yes, I used to go to church once, before I saw the colours of the lovely lights!) saying that I write because I’d die if I didn’t. I’d just finished “Worlds Without End”, my three-years-long work of autobiographical fiction, designed to cut the ties of the past and give me the courage to look forward, so I was probably a bit full of myself, but it was all organised-religion-laden hubris that I’ve since managed to struggle through to the real me, or at least the version that’s real now, and I still have it hidden somewhere in the Dark Regions of the loft. Not good reading, as I thought it was then!! Oh, hindsight sometimes you are such a cruel mistress.

    Now, I’d say I write because it helps me to understand who I am and what I’m capable of, and that because of it I surprise myself every time I sit down to do it. You’d think that’d make me sit down and do it more often, wouldn’t you? But I still let chores, usually foisted upon me by others, and procrastination hold sway far more often than I should. Like tonight, for instance, playing on the internet, having a fun old time, but not finishing the chapter of Earth Magic so I can make space in my head for the other writing that needs doing. But what a dull world it would be if we were all perfect. No, actually, in this instance what a colourful world it would be if I just got on with it! Of course, I tell myself the right words are obviously just not ready to emerge perfectly formed yet …

    Brightest Blessings and more love from all of us to all of you,
    Tally 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Writing is like that, isn’t it, Tally? We peel away layers, we learn to direct the flow and go! What is real is always under construction or to be dug up. Our writing evolves as we do. Sometimes I think procrastination is process. I can feel disoriented, even disconnected if I write too much. We do other things to catch up perhaps! And yes, definitely would be dull if we were perfect. Give the words time to simmer and form. Brightest blessing to you all, too!

  2. Sherri

    ‘Writing into truth’. Every time I read your posts about writing Charli I find myself nodding furiously in agreement and then saying, “Ah-ha! So that’s what it’s all about!”. Even in reading your reply to Tally, I am relieved actually and fascinated what you say about feeling disorientated and disconnected if you write too much. I’ve never read this before from any writer but it’s just what I’ve been experiencing. Yet, the ‘writing into a story’ you describe here is just what I find happens as I press on with my memoir: more is released as the story unfolds and I’m so often surprised at what comes up when I’m in full flow. It is an unravelling although in this case I already know the plot line so I know it’s not the same as with writing fiction in that respect. I love your thirst for digging deeper into a story by removing the layers one at a time and you have a wonderful way of communicating your writing process to us and reminding us that we are indeed ‘writing ourselves anew’ every day. Thank you too for introducing us to your three other bloggers, I look forward to heading over to their blogs as soon as I get a chance. See you later today with the Flash 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      You would have loved the writer’s retreat that I took at the Franciscan Center in Wisconsin. That’s where I learned the truth of writing into truth. 🙂 Everything was set up around discovery (rather than being told) and it sounds as if you are making your own discoveries, too as you press into your story. The issue with writing too much came up when I had young children at home. I turned into a raving lunatic if my flow was interrupted, much to my embarrassment. The kids could interrupt any other thing–even reading or homework, tasks or conversations–but writing can really get me off-kilter. I think I go too deep and get the bends trying to pull out! So I learned to to write in shorter increments. Now they are all grown and live in different states (MI, WI, MT) and I can press deep. But I’ve learned to recognize when I start to feel disoriented and I take a break. Sometimes I take a week-long break or a month-long break after NaNoWriMo. I think this might be a topic worth discussing more because I do believe it does cause some procrastination in that the writer needs to recover! Glad it’s not just me, Sherri! Loved your flash, too!

      • Sherri

        Oh I find this all so great to talk about with you Charli! I don’t know how you did it, writing when your children were young and at home. I signed up to a children’s writing course just about the same time I discovered I was expecting my daughter and I was so sick for the first 5 months (never had that with the boys, strange that isn’t it?) that I had to let it go and then of course I was just way too distracted after I had her. So I’ve only been writing seriously for three years and all this is new to me, these discoveries, all you shared her about writing into truth and then turning into a ‘raving lunatic’ if my writing is interrupted (great description, that, perfect!!). I have been grumpy for a few days because I haven’t been able to get to my book and I’ve discovered that the best thing is to write on it first thing in the morning, early, before I do anything. I did it today at last and got so lost in it that before I realised I had been typing straight for 3 hours! I felt wrung out afterwards because I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything and think I was dehydrated. But I felt so much better for getting down the specific things I wanted to get down today. Fait accompli!! A great feeling that, isn’t it?
        I think this is a great topic for discussion, this business or writer recovery. Great idea there Charli!
        Over to your flash post now…

      • Charli Mills

        Writing at home when children were young = derailed writing goals. Not failed, just not what I had expected. Instead of novels, I wrote short stories. Instead of cranking out chapters, I found freelance gigs (I think this would be an equivalent to blogging today). I did finish my writing degree but it took me into a career of business writing. As the kids got to be teenagers I tried to resuscitate languishing novel ideas. Ended up doing a lot of research on Little Crow and the Dakota Uprising in Minnesota which led to publishing three essays about research trips with a teenaged daughter. Business writing taught me a lot of skills. Being a parent matured my soul and that helped me find my voice as a writer. Yet, nothing seemed to turn out as I expected it to. Fast forward to now…kids all left home, the Hub took a job out west, I had a series of tragic events and I said, screw it! I’m writing! Ha, ha! This novel writing episode of my life is my proverbial lemonade. And it is sweet. It’s been long in the making with lots of tart lemons.

        So when you say you’ve only been seriously writing for three years, I suspect you’ve been seriously living much longer than that. 🙂 Oh, how we long to get into that writer’s vein of gold, and how we don’t want to get out of the tunnel once we are mining, everything we do in life informs our words, our stories and most importantly our voices. Back when I tried so hard to write with little kids, I don’t think I had what I’ve gained from life between then and now. But I think parents today who write have a lovely advantage with blogging. They get to blog those things that might seem unimportant, but one day they will realize that it is transitional. Getting to write it “fresh” so to speak will harken that process and get to that voice quicker, I do believe. But it’s still frustrating. Writing can be frustrating.

        Wonderful that you got to dive into the well (and it was full). Ah, yes, eating, drinking…reminds me that it’s nearly noon and I haven’t even poured a cup of coffee. I think you are in a similar place as I am where we are ready for saying specific things, but I do believe we can write at any phase of our lives. Just acknowledging as Sarah pointed out–it ain’t always easy. 🙂 So good to be among the troops.

      • Sherri

        I love that you shared just the tip of your writing journey iceburg Charli, thank you for that. A story in and of itself! I’m so sorry though for the more than tough times you’ve had to endure…yet, as you say, it is indeed the stuff of life, the good, the bad and the ugly, that gives us so much writing fodder…and also, you have obviously come through so much so that now you give back a great deal of hope and encouragement and even more to me, to us here…right now.

        I wonder if I should have concentrated on getting more articles and short stories written and hopefully published before I started blogging and then writing my book? I’ve been winding my way through a creative writing course for the past 4 years but since I started blogging a year and a half ago, I’ve not done much at all with it, having completed creative writing and now moved on to the fiction part. My confidence was knocked sideways when my new fiction tutor told my first couple of short story assignments were flat and boring, in a nutshell. My heart wasn’t in them, I admit, and I wrote them for a specific magazine as I was told to do, which, frankly is not the kind of mag I would read as I prefer to write much more gritty stuff (as you know). I told him this but then he told me that I was probably at the stage that a lot of new writers are, as in discovering that I was not cut out to write after all and that it is far harder than I expected. Well, considering he had only just read two of my stories I was a bit taken aback by that. That’s why I hesitated at first with your flash challenges but my confidence is improving! So yes, another wonderful benefit of blogging, as well as the one you mentioned here for young mums. It would have been very different for us wouldn’t it if we had blogged back in the day when we had young kids…

        I”m excited about the place we are in, here, today. Sarah is right, is ain’t always easy, but what I love is yes, we are all in this together. I’m pulling on my riding boots and saddling up even now…about time to rope in a few of those rattlesnakes don’t you think? I love hanging out at Carrot Ranch 🙂

        Happy writing and see you soon 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I think blogging offers writers a way to get their work “out there” the way freelancing used to. Although you can freelance, you have to have a reason or a niche. If your reason is to get a by-line out there, well, keep blogging! That way you can write what matters to you and still get out a by-line. If you have a niche (for instance, I still write about or for the organic food industry) then that’s one way to make money. Often you don’t get a by-line because you are writing content for a company’s blog, media or reports. Another future topic–building up that writer’s platform! That’s more important than publishing articles or short stories unless said publishing adds to your platform (look at what Anne Goodwin does with her short stories, or Larry LaFarge–what they publish they incorporate into their platform rather than collect portfolio pieces). Another thought is that we have so many opportunities to learn, be sure to have some elements in your writing life that build you up as a writer. The way creative fiction is taught, we deconstruct and criticize. I don’t totally agree with the approach. I believe in finding a writer’s strength and focusing on that along with correcting mechanical errors for future mastery of the craft. But craft isn’t always the heart and soul of a writer. Balance is needed and I believe in building up people, not tearing them down. I’m so sorry that a tutor would ever tell you–or any writer–that you aren’t cut out to be a writer. True, it’s more complex than people expect and there’s those wolves–but that’s like telling someone after they’ve run their first mile that they can’t do it. Run it again. And gain. Learn how to breathe. Learn how to pace. Run your 100th mile and see how much you’ve improved. I’m so glad you are finding confidence in writing flash. This is meant to be a friendly community where we can practice craft, write among peers and grow our understanding by running the course with others. You did good in following your instinct to start blogging. Great discussion, Sherri and I’m so glad you have your riding boots on! Happy writing trails to you, too!

      • Sherri

        Well, you’ve really encouraged me no end Charli. This really is a great discussion, so beneficial. I hope for you too, as here I am asking for all this advice! I took the tutor to task and said ‘hold on a minute, I’ve only just started fiction and you’ve never read any of my other non-fiction work – they changed tutors on me after the creative section ended – and I admit my heart wasn’t in it but to say that is not on!’ He did apologise and said pretty much what you said about deconstructing and criticizing in an effort to ‘help’ but forgetting to say what is good about the piece! I asked him to be more specific in his critique and more helpful, I can take it after all! He went on to tell my strong and weak points (good plot, characters, but not enough dialogue, too much explanation). This was far more helpful!!! It took me a long time to recover though, I felt very fragile with fiction and shied away from it…until your flash prompts! Although I did write a flash for another blog some months ago – before the fiction tutor burst my balloon – and it seemed to go down well, thank goodness. So…all that to say, yes, it is definitely about learning how to breathe and pacing and getting into shape. And that’s what we should be told! You make a great writing tutor Charli, you really do 🙂 Not to mention, you are so kind and measured in your responses and in your advice. When you know what it’s like to be torn down, as you’ve hinted at in your own life, you know just how to help others and that is just what you are doing now. It’s wonderful, it really it 🙂 Being allowed to grow and blossom within a safe, friendly and encouraging writing community is amazing. I never thought I would ever find myself in one. And yes, that is just what blogging has given us. Thank you for letting me know your thoughts about building up an author platform/portfolio. The course I took made mention of getting published in magazines etc. to build up a portfolio with clippings but never mentioned blogging. They need to update their course materials I think. I have written for a few websites, paid for one the rest for free just to get my ‘by-line’ so I thought, but it’s not regular work and I figured that it was better to keep blogging and hoped so! So it’s great to have that validation from you as I really was beginning to wonder if I was climbing up the wrong tree.
        I’ll let you go now but once again, thank you so much for taking so much of your time to write me your thoughts. All the while, I’ve been trying to climb out of a deep hole and tell that old black dog to go back to its bed. But I’m beginning to see a small break in the clouds…at last… 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        This whole discussion is encouraging all around. 🙂 You are right on about asking for specifics in a critique. And good for you for speaking up to him! It’s far more helpful to hear specific feedback, but a good coach will watch, encourage and correct quickly without big-dealing it. Critique is needed, but not right out the gate or generalized. Then it’s discouraging. It’s all such a continuing process and we grow and learn as we write. Discussing it helps us both–it helps solidify ideas or share different viewpoints. I think a future blog post on platform versus portfolio would be a good idea. Having built a portfolio over 20 years, I find it no longer serves me. But there’s many reasons why–changes in technology, shifting from writing articles to stories, changes in the publishing industry itself. You can count on any educational program being at least three years behind what is really happening in a profession or industry. I think things are shifting so quickly in the publishing industry that it can both trip or propel writers. There will always be value for knowing craft and writing quality pieces, but we also have to be careful of old advice that no longer serves. Whenever a wolf threatens to bite (that is, a negative thought that wants to bring me down such as, “So many changes, so confusing, my portfolio doesn’t matter, etc.” I try to find the flip-side: changes mean new opportunities, information or other people can clarify what is confusing me, I can apply my experience to a platform and use portfolio piece, etc. And it helps so much to do that among a culture of other writers who are literary-minded, thoughtful and kind! We’re in this together, better to help each other, right? 😉 I’m so glad the clouds are parting. Keep focusing on rays of light. Don’t let the old black dog bite!

      • Sherri

        Thoughtful and kind…these two words have been very much on my heart as I recently shared on my post and now here I am reading them here. This culture of kindness amongst fellow writers I’m realising is absolutely vital. This is the enemy of that old wolf for here we can gain clarity and encouragement both of which prevent that awful paralysis. Yes, that will be an excellent blog post and one that many will benefit from I’m sure. It does seem that blogging is the main way to build up a platform these days but then how do we stand out from the crowd and get noticed within our genre when we only have a few hundred instead of thousands of followers? I wonder what publishers are really looking for (in addition to a good story of course!) Ahh, so many questions!
        We are indeed in this together…and you, my friend, have helped me gain much needed energy to tell that old black dog to stay put…and so far, thank you, he’s being fairly well behaved 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Honestly, I think publishers are looking to writers to do what was traditionally their job–marketing. They do want to see followers (potential readers) and a writer’s ability to connect with purchasers. That’s bottom-line. However, nothing will ever replace quality writing and a good story. It’s about connecting (just like we are doing right now). Teagan Kearny wrote a great post on what writers need (3Ds) but she has an apt description about stepping into the indie writer’s bazaar with her little table in the dark corner among all the hawkers. But she writes that our focus needs to be on the writing. I agree. We do that individually even if collectively we talk about process or stories. However, I think we can collaborate as writers and create those dynamics the publishers are looking for. Thus your blogging is important and so is building these authentic relationships (as opposed to “buying followers”). But focus on that writing and lets keep those old black dogs down. 🙂

      • Sherri

        Thanks for the link to Teagan’s blog, I read her excellent post and even though I haven’t even written a book yet, never mind published one, I agree and understand just what she means You have it so right Charli, the blogging community we have here and the connections made are vital for so many reasons and ultimately, we just need to focus and keep writing no matter what…rain or shine 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a good post. Glad you found it useful, too. Great community–like discovering your neighborhood!

  3. Annecdotist

    Congratulations, Charli, on another well-deserved award. I was interested to read about your motivation (yes, that theme again) for writing and I’m always curious about the relationships we forge between our writing and our demons and how they help and hinder the process. And congratulations to the three excellent writers to whom you passed on the award.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, gosh, Anne don’t mention awards! I’m going to post next on “bloggers guilt” that seems to come from such. 🙂 I think this was just a blog hop (see–not an award an I can handle it; an award and suddenly I’m jittery over what to do with it)! Talk about our demons and process…I’m hoping for the tagged writers to get to talk about their books. Thanks!

  4. ruchira

    Love the blog hop theme, Charli
    Happy to be a part of it and spreading the word.

    Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for being a part of it, Ruchira! It is a good theme, especially for writers. 🙂

  5. lorilschafer

    Nice post, Charli. I like the way you didn’t try to nail it down to one single, all-consuming motivation.

    • Charli Mills

      I really had to think about it! Then yesterday’s circus of communication left me realizing how much I actually enjoy communicating even when it seems to fall apart. Probably because it gives me the chance to pull it together. But that didn’t address why I like stories and history and the less tangible things of writing. Thanks!

  6. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Loved reading your reasons for writing. I have such a visual of the lady in the wonderful house meeting the stage every day. That sounds like a story to be told after you finish with Cob and Sarah. I had been thinking of writing something today based on something I read last night and your post has given me the final nudge.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Irene! I actually found that original binder of notes on Silver Chalmers before moving and I kept it. It’s like 30 years old! I do have an evolved idea for it. I’m glad you you could find a final nudge and I look forward to the results!

  7. Norah

    Thanks for sharing these insights, Charli. I enjoyed reading about your motivations for writing. If not to communicate, what else? What I really love is that you have described yourself as brave. Brave for writing the truth; and also brave for making your own choices about what to write and what not to write. You have left your past behind and every day create the new writer that is you. Words of a strong woman. I can learn so much from you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah. We have so much to learn from each other, we life-ling learners. 😀

      • Norah


  8. Andy Oldham

    This is a great post! I love the way you communicated the parts that you do not want to write about. I am writing my memoir and deal with what I should say about those dark and trying times in my life and “if” I should even tell some of them. This helps a lot. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Andy! Thanks for stopping by and reading. I’m glad this post helped. We can always write what we choose and if you decide to tell or not tell is completely yours–you own it. Good luck with your memoir!

  9. Sarah Brentyn

    So it only took me one month to comment on the lovely lady I nominated for this blog hop. (Which isn’t that bad considering…nope, can’t think of a good excuse.) Well, I have read it, at least, and I just wanted my little two shiny pennies on here for you to see.

    I am so glad I tagged you. It’s always interesting to see why writers write. You did not disappoint. 🙂 Communication. Of course. But your other reasons are perfectly wonderful and perfectly you. History. Peeling away layers of your external life to find your core: writer. I love this entry.

    • Charli Mills

      You’re 5 months early! Thanks, Sarah. It’s also enjoyable to be in good company among writers!


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