• Elizabeth Bartasius

In the Thick of It: Why We Write

Do you know why, when it happens, you are called to write?

For fun, I took a personality test on FB. The wizards behind the test proudly told me: “You are a scientist! You are able to absorb extremely complex theoretical and practical knowledge. You tend to see the BIG picture, and you love difficult theoretical challenges. Are we spot-on?”


Maybe I do all those things. But, I’m writer, not a scientist.

For the last few weeks, after being sucker punched, I haven’t quite known how to be a writer.

Seems pointless to write about the heart or the current tidying-up project when so many others are struggling. I should be chain-sawing tree debris, nailing on blue roofs, feeding homeless, kneeling in support of the black movement, delivering them boatloads of water and supplies to Puerto Rico, or crying for Las Vegas.

Yet, writing is not pointless. In the BIG picture, stories help others through challenges, stories create history. Stories move people to bold action. Stories change lives. Stories brighten a haggard soul.

Still, that is not the core of why I write.

I write to make sense of the world around me. Not only to heal but to evolve, to craft a life narrative, not to blind myself from the realities, but to be able to live in this world, to be able face another human being and be interested, to feel a connection, to understand if they are in pain, to help inform my own pain. To surrender.

I’m a white girl with first world-problems. I will never be “good enough” or “sacrifice enough” to be worthy of those that suffer continuously. I will never be able to shed enough tears, right enough wrongs, or take enough actions myself to change the horror. But, I can write. I can write my story. I help you write your story or encourage you to write yours. First world or third world or from other dimensions, your story matters.

Our stories MUST matter; it’s what we’ve got.

And, you and I must write ours with grace and honesty, so much honesty that it scares us and riles others. We must explore each nook and cranny of emotion. It’s not enough to say we’re in one piece, everything’s fine. We know it’s not. We know we are a complicated pile of human psyche and emotion, we know our sisters and brothers are too. We also know we are living in a complicated and crazy world, seemingly out-of-control, on the brink of something god-awful.

Lately, I’ve had to turn my head, because it’s too painful-overwhelming-exhausting to keep watching. Yet, it’s impossible to stick our heads in the sand; we are ever-informed with more and more communication each day.

Of course, we want to avoid, we feel! We are human. We go through it all from zest to despair.

Of course, we are privileged! We can act, in our own small ways. The last thing the world needs is another human needlessly suffering.

Writing IS the answer, for me. Writing (and donating some money and lending a hand where I can) is how I can show my support at this moment. To find relief, I turn to writing. So can you.

As we write, we have the extreme privilege to dive deeper into ourselves and how we play out our lives inside the larger context of humanity. We gain perspective, we gain compassion. We become a “we” vs. an “I against them.” In that story we write, we grow, we evolve, we become a better human then we were yesterday, and hopefully we are of service to those around us.

So, we keep on writing. For two hours a day or just five minutes; it doesn’t matter.

We write when others are without water and little government assistance. We write when children are being mutilated and sold into prostitution. We write when others are senselessly murdered. We write when our parents are sick, when our hearts are heavy. We write when we see threads light, when an old man slumped in a chair touches our heart, when a dear friend passes to the other side, when the garden needs mulching.

Begin with a sentence. Stick around for a paragraph. Write for your own evolution and the inevitable evolution of the cosmos.

Write so you can feel.

Write so you can think clearly.

Write to save yourself.

Write to be present to the pain, to be present to the love.

Write to be present to all those emotions in-between.

Write to have a shared experience.

Write to heal.

Write to sprout.

Write to feel goosebumps.

Tap into your muse, and write for the hallelujah joy of it.

Goodbye to careless tweets or thoughtless posts, write what is in your heart.

You can begin by answering these questions:

What does pain sound like?

What does joy smell like?

What does loss look like?

What does crabby taste like?

What does love feel like?

Once you get out a few words (try at least five words for each question) then you can take them deeper, be more specific.

If love feels like the vibration of an engine, tell us what kind of engine. A jet engine, a lawnmower, the coffee grinder, a cat 5 hurricane.


If so inspired, go to the next level by exploring one topic at a time. Take love, for example.

What does love feel like?

What does love taste like?

What does love smell like?

What does love sound like?

What color is the love you feel for (pick someone you love)?

What makes it that color?

What does the love you feel for (same someone) look like?

You get the gist…

By exploring ideas through the lens of the five senses, you will not only get your juices flowing, but you’ll hone in on your unique viewpoint. This is a glorious moment, enjoy it. Get wild with your words, baby! Let them lead down alley ways and over cliffs. You never know what you will discover.

In this way, we writers are scientists, in the thick of a life experiment.

Another photo by Ryan at His images make my laugh (Lords knows, we can all use a good laugh) at the same time expressing something deeper.