Why I Write (Ode to Joan, George & Elie) by Raquel Rios

All at once I am alone and one with the rest of the world, the world of artists and poets and writers yes, but with those others who will live and die an ordinary life.  I write because I have no choice.  Writing is the only act of grace that has remained consistent by my side, unyielding.  Even when “the self” has changed, it is in my writing that I’ve found a pervasive voice: an echo, a rustling leaf,  the sound of heartbeats underwater, wind pushing through mountains, a pulse, a wail, the tide, lapse in time.

I write to tell the past, the present and the future with my own hands.  I write to shape experience into a bridge that takes me back and forth between the realm of thought and the lovely, generous land of the spirit.

I write to be a master conduit, an alchemist of sorts and like all magic, the essence of the act is revealed only in relationship with others.  That is why I say I write because I am a reflection of this comical paradox we call human existence…to be alone and part of humanity.

I write because words transcend all things. Have you ever wondered why the written word threatens even the most powerful?  Writers are obsessed with power. “You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”  (Joan Didion)

That said—“what I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”  (George Orwell)

I write because sometimes it’s the only thing I can do in the face of suffering.  It is my way of bearing witness or ridding myself of the debilitating sense of hopelessness or guilt.  Much of my writing is critical in nature, an interrogation if you will, streaming light into darkness as a way to heal pain.  Of course, there are times of doubt when I give in to weakness, or long for comfort.  “I hear a voice within me telling me to stop mourning the past.  I too want to sing of love and of its magic.  I too want to celebrate the sun, and the dawn that heralds the sun.  I would like to shout, and shout loudly: “Listen, listen well!  I too am capable of victory, do you hear?  I too am open to laughter and joy!  I want to stride, head high, my face unguarded, without having to point to the ashes over there on the horizon, without having to tamper with facts to hide their tragic ugliness.  For a man born blind, God himself is blind, but look, I see, I am not blind.”  One feels like shouting this, but the shout changes to a murmur.  One must make a choice; one must remain faithful.” (Elie Wiesel)

I write because I am interested in merging our private spaces.  Writing is an act of love after all.  I write political things because politics is about relationships and you cannot love by living in a world alone.  Words have always been used by the wretched and the poor to bring about justice and demand that we treat each other with respect and kindness.

I write because I am a survivor and a warrior and although I am capable of victory, I do not want to go down a victor without a proper eulogy.  I want my blood sweat and tears, as well as my love, joy and pride to resonate in the minds and souls of others.

Finally, I write to return the gift given to me by Joan, George and Elie—and the countless many!—who have given me the permission to choose faithfully and find truth in the process despite the circumstances that may have otherwise confused my sensibilities.


Raquel Rios, PhD is an educator, critical theorist, philosopher, artist and writer.  She has traveled extensively in the US and internationally as a professional development specialist on change leadership, inter-cultural competence, language acquisition, critical literacy and social justice.  Raquel has been publishing her blog Real World (http://realworlddialogue.blogspot.com/) since 2005 and has an international audience.  She’s written several novels for the YA/ middle grade audience with publication pending. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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