Jim Landwehr – Why We Write

After enrolling in AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop in 2009, I suddenly found myself surrounded by people just like me. Most were just starting out, and few, if any, had published. Yet we were all there for the same inexplicable reason, we felt an urge to write as a creative outlet. While I was intimidated during the first meeting or so, that fear quickly dissipated when my peers critiqued my work. It was their words of support and encouragement that spurred me on. Words like “this is so funny” or “I love this piece,” were exactly what I needed to hear to push me to become a better writer.

I went into the class intending to write non-fiction only. It seemed to be my gift and writing anything else never really occurred to me. My writing instructor, Kathie Giorgio, pushed all of us to experiment with other styles, genres and formats. I began to mess around with poetry, more out of curiosity than anything else. I wanted to stretch myself and see if I was any good at it. Kathie urged me to start submitting my work, so I sent a couple of poems to Verse Wisconsin, a local poetry magazine.

A few weeks later I got an email from one of the editors of Verse Wisconsin, saying she and her colleague were sitting at coffee laughing at my poem, which they loved. They asked if it would be okay to publish it, to which I responded, YES!!! Now, I know this is a small thing, a short poem, not my best work, for a local magazine. At the same time it absolutely fueled my desire to be published. I have been working hard ever since with a fair amount of success, including my first book-length memoir Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir, published last month.

But I don’t want to sound one-dimensional, that the only reason I write is to be published. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I write because it is my way of working things out in my head. I tend to reminisce and romanticize the past a lot, which makes memoir a perfect outlet. I tend to be an introspective introvert, which makes poetry a perfect fit. It’s how I put skin to my thoughts and make them walk around. In some ways it’s easier than actually speaking them. In a funny, related story, writing letters back and forth was how I actually met my wife. We were pen pals from five states away for a year and a half before we finally met and fell in love. My wife claims it was my words that drew her to me. I was able to pen my thoughts better than verbalize them to her, and it paid off. We celebrated twenty-four years this June.

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