Why I Write (Two)

Hoping the computer will reel me in.For the second in my series ‘Why I Write’, I’m delighted to welcome Sarah James.

I first ‘met’ Sarah in 2011 when we were both winners in the International Rubery Book Award – I came second with ‘Unravelling’ and Sarah was third with her wonderful first collection of poetry ‘Into the Yell’. We discovered that we live within twenty miles of each other and I first met her properly at a spoken word event in Worcester.

Sarah is not only a very talented poet – I saw her last year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival performing on the same platform as the wonderful Irish poet Bernard O’Donoghue, and Sarah more than held her own – she is also a warm and supportive writing friend.

Over to you, Sarah!Sarah James reads from Into the Yell-001

Why I Write

1) Because I am mad?

2) Because I can’t not write?

3) Because I’ve nothing better to do?

4) All of the above?

The truth is 4) all of those reasons, and more. I love playing with words, their sounds, their patterns. The urge to create, and to create using words, is something I can’t escape from.

Crafting is also important to me and another aspect of writing I particularly enjoy, so another of my whys.

Why I Became a Writer

The word ‘became’ is thought-provoking,  because I don’t think I ever became a writer. More, it is something that has always been there, that is part of who I am.

As a child, I used to create pretend newspapers. When I was six or seven, I wrote a ‘poem’ about a flea popping down to the shops in a dressing gown. This had personification, rhymes and humour, but not much else. Now it makes me cringe. But the interest in language and having fun with words was already there.

At university, I studied French and lingusitics, then went on to work as a newspaper reporter. For years I didn’t write creatively. Then I started to write short fiction and from short fiction to poetry again in my late 20s.

Why I Write Poetry

So, at the moment, I mostly write poetry. It’s hard work, tiring and often involves a lot of pain when striving for a perfection that just won’t crystallise. I have tried to not write. There are times when I would give almost anything to make the words go away and leave me alone. But it just never lasts for long. And, of course, when a piece finally comes together, the why of writing answers itself.

Do I Write for an Audience?

As for being a published writer, rather than writing just for myself? Ego? Well, we’ve all got one of those, even those who aren’t writers! Recent statistics doing the rounds on Facebook suggest that writing is the second most competitive career, after being a dancer. (And I do know a poet who is also a dancer!) So maybe, that does make it a little mad to be a writer. It certainly often feels like an addiction. Poets Anonymous anyone? My name is Sarah and I am a poet…

Truth is though, that poetry, like other art, is a form of communication. It is about the reader and audience as much as it is about me as a writer.  Somewhat like Shrödinger’s cat, its existence depends on its being seen and read. The buzz of inspiration is incredible, the satisfaction of crafting too, but there is also a thrill to knowing one has moved someone or changes something inside them or presented the world to them in a different light or made them realise something they never noticed before or…laughter, tears, delight, all these reactions are great. Good feedback from critics or friends is wonderful. But the wow of having a stranger, who has no obligation and nothing to gain from praise, come up to one in the supermarket to say how much they’ve enjoyed something one’s written is quite extraordinary!

Why else?

Well, particularly as someone who writes both in a mainstream(ish) and more experimental way, I guess also the fact that there will always be something more to learn, always something new to try. It’s an interest/career/life that never gets boring!

And that’s where I’ll end…for now, with a virtual toast to writing. And to all the whys I’ve not yet thought of!


Sarah James, poet and short story writer: website at http://sarah-james.co.uk & V. Press, poetry editor.
Be[yond] – poetry collection now out with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press (July 2013).
Into the Yell – poetry collection, Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010 – third prize, International Rubery Book Awards 2011.
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  1. Shrödinger. Nuts. That is the perfect word for it. Trust a poet to nail the entire issue down to a single, exquisitely right word.

    Mind you, nuts. That’s also a perfect word for writers. I’m just saying, as a fellow nut-ee.

  2. Polly says:

    You made me smile, Sarah – what a wonderful way to describe what you do and why 🙂

  3. Christine Steenfeldt says:

    Thank you for your post, Sarah- eloquently put!

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