Whenever I tell people I'm working on a book or I'm a writer, it’s inevitable that someone will say, "Oh, I want to write a book," or "I feel called to write," or "I've always wanted to write."
To these statements, I always want to ask the person "Why do you want to write?" I believe that answering this question will enable a person to have clarity about their writing life, and eventually, a commitment to a regular writing practice.
In the past few years, as a result of the pandemic, many aspiring writers used the time when the world slowed down to spend time indoors — writing. In the coming years, we’ll see a flood of new titles online and in bookstores. In addition, there are approximately one million books published every year—that’s a lot of books!
So, why should you write? There are many reasons that only you will be able to answer.
Especially as we get older, I believe there’s an inherent desire to document our stories, and this is beautiful, regardless of whether or not your writing is published. Writing your stories will help you remember and reflect on your life, but it will also enable others to know you better if you do decide to share your work.
My mother passed away when I was a teenager, and I knew at that time that I should document my feelings about her illness and the impact it was having on her and our family. I didn’t do it at that time. But years later, I started writing to remember my mother, to keep her memories alive. My father began writing for a similar reason. He wanted to remember South Vietnam, and his love of the Motherland, as well as its history. For both of us, spending the time writing was a healing experience. This might not be the case for everyone, but for some of us, reliving our memories through writing becomes a portal to our wounds and to our history.
Sometimes people get so caught up in the external world of publishing and telling others that they’ve completed a book that they might forget the internal benefits of writing for oneself. Over the years, writing has become very much like a spiritual practice for me. You might have heard others offer advice to meditate first thing in the morning, but in my life, writing has become my form of meditation. I write almost every day—sometimes for an hour, or less, and sometimes for hours until I tire of writing. Writing has been a way to connect to my soul, to process the world around me, and to express myself.
For years, I wrote for myself and then, I compiled files and files worth of writing, which I sometimes return to for inspiration. Some of my writing that I worked on years ago is now part of my recent books. I never view time spent writing as wasted time, because as you continue to write, you get better and better. Eventually, you might have a full body of work that can be published as a book, and then, the external rewards of people actually reading your work starts to take place.
But I believe that writing for yourself first is a wonderful place to start. Over time, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to tell stories and your writing. My recommendation for any aspiring writer is to savor the process of writing and don’t worry—just yet—about the end result. And also to reflect on your “Why” and then develop a schedule that you can commit to in order to achieve your writing goals. Consistency and a regular writing practice are essential to developing your craft and completing your projects.
Life is a journey, and so is writing. The more present you are in the current moment of writing, the better writer you’ll be in the future.
Christina Vo's debut memoir, The Veil Between Two Worlds: A Memoir of Silence, Loss, and Finding Home, will be published in April 2023. Christina writes to explore her family history, her deeper purpose, and her place in the world. She is currently working on her second memoir. To learn more, visit her website at https://www.christinavo.com/ and be sure to preorder her book on Amazon!