Why I Write by Liz Worth

For much of my life, I’ve felt unheard, unseen.

WorthPhotoWhen I was a kid, I remember sometimes putting my hand up in class to be the first to answer a question, but the teacher would overlook me and call on the kid who was second to raise their hand. Sometimes someone might point out that I should have gone first, and the teacher would raise her eyebrows, surprised. “Oh, I didn’t even see you there.”

I was the first of my friends to go vegetarian, but no one noticed until over a year later, when someone else in the group went veg. Then it became a big deal, but when I did it, it was forgettable, as if it wasn’t even real. Or maybe I wasn’t real.

When I was 13 I was struggling with depression and self-harm, but any adult who got involved followed the rules they felt were right, rather than listening to what I wanted, what I needed. I felt like I was something they wanted to fix rather than a person they were trying to help.

Whenever I tried to explain the impact it all had on me in the years to follow, I felt like people didn’t get it. Whenever I tried to open up about something I would get blank stares, stiff lips, changed subjects.

When I was working as a freelance writer for a few years, stories I’d pitch would go unanswered sometimes, only to appear six months later under another writer’s name. I know it happens to other people, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just another case of going unheard, unnoticed. I could almost hear the editors on the other end of the inbox saying, “oh, I didn’t even see you there.”

When I first asked myself the question, “why do I write?” I actually answered, “I don’t know.”

It’s only recently that I’ve come to enjoy the writing process. Up until recently, I more enjoyed the feeling of having written.

Because there have been times when I resented writing, when I felt it kept me from living my life, kept me missing out on Sunday brunches and shopping with friends and regular trips to the Laundromat.

Instead of wondering why I write, I would ask, “why do I do this to myself?” But still I returned to the page, often day after day, pushing myself as much as possible.

I’ve never had a mandate or a mission for my work. Instead, I’ve often rushed forward with it, sometimes with blinding obsession, working past the lump of anxiety that inevitably settles deep in my chest if too much time passes without hitting the page.

I knew that I wanted to write the types things that I would want to read – punk rock poetry, obscure bands, spirit animals, haunted girls and the ghosts that lived in the – but I wasn’t on a mission. I didn’t have a reason to write, just an urgency.

I believe that creating is the most important thing you can do, and for me, building structures out of words is what I am most drawn to, what is most exhilarating.

But I can, and do, create other things. They don’t come through me the way writing does, though. I don’t feel driven by them in the same way. I don’t feel like I need them in the same way.

So why do I write? Why choose words over another medium?

When I look back at everything my writing has brought out of me – so many truths, so many secrets that would have remained hidden and unheard, so many things that people have told me they always wanted to say but never knew how – I see now why it had to happen.

I feel heard when I write, and sometimes I get the privilege of knowing that my words have connected with someone else.

postapocWriting also lets my bypass the fear I often have of sharing something out loud. I still experience that feeling of being ignored, or misunderstood – even in some of my closest relationships. When I write, I can send my words out there, weighted in black and white, and trust that they will find the people who need to see them. I don’t have to risk a blank stare. I don’t have to ask for someone to try to hear me out. The words are there for whoever wants to receive them, and that’s all the work I need to do.

Strongly introverted, writing also lets me talk to a lot of people without leaving home. Sometimes, there are things that need to be said, but without the power of a blog or the delicacy of a fresh poem, certain pieces of my life would never be known outside of myself.

I write to connect, to pull out every truth and jagged edge I can, to understand myself better and in the process maybe reflect back someone else’s truth, too.  I write to make sense of who I am and I write to find freedom and I write to liberate aspects of myself that would never otherwise be known.

But mostly, I write because I have to, because that lump in my chest just keeps nagging if I don’t.

At just 31 years old, writer Liz Worth has blown readers away with stunning poetry and a fascinating tribute to Toronto’s music scene. Worth has worked as a journalist, but these days, she is mostly focused on poetry, fiction and performance art. Her writing has been published in Exclaim!, Dead Gender, Carousel, The Toronto Star and Broken Pencil. She published a collection of poetry called “Amphetamine Heart” (2011, Guernica Editions) and the non-fiction book, “Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond” (2009, Bongo Beat/ECW Press) that gave an in-depth account of Toronto’s earliest punk scene. She has written three chapbooks – “Eleven: Eleven,” “Manifestations” and “Arik’s Dream” Worth’s latest work, “PostApoc” comes out Oct. 15 from Now or Never Publishing. Excerpts from the book have appeared in Dead Gender and Carousel. Worth lives in Toronto, Ontario.


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