Writing is the outlet of a never-quiet mind. 

Writing is gathering the thoughts collected while shampooing hair, driving to work, scrubbing the dishes, packing a box, sweeping the floor, watering the garden, chopping an onion, watching the spinning wheel of death, meandering around the neighborhood, chatting with friends, brushing by strangers… 

Writing is reading someone else’s work in awe at a single phrase, a single moment, a million threads woven together—then trying to recreate the effect in your own world.

Writing is recognizing your own rhythms in a woman at the art museum, watching her pause in front of a painting and then suddenly scribble a line in her notebook. When you walk over to that image, all you can do is wonder what she must have seen.

Writing is coercing yourself to do what makes your brain feel active and creative and alive. 

Writing is a caffeinated rush towards the finish line. 

Writing is a slow, painful slog towards an uncertain future. 

Writing is reading others’ work and wondering if you could write between the gaps of their legacies.

Writing is remembering a thousand unfinished projects, then starting the next one. 

Writing is the creation of material you’ll delete anyway when you go back to edit.

Writing is the steady construction of sentences that wind and curve and turn until even you aren’t quite sure what you meant anymore. 

Writing is sweating and striving to find the right words, then struggling to explain to outsiders why that work feels worthwhile. 

Writing is a cold, forgotten cup of coffee and 782 words typed. 

Writing is a thrice-emptied teapot and sixteen words typed. 

Writing is naming the unknown.

Writing is composing out the world’s most pretentious, flowery nonsense.

Writing is reading through your work and wishing you had thought of that idea when you were the creator, not the reader.

Writing is flirting with a new idea when the old one is still half-completed. 

Writing is the delight of growing a piece with each revision. 

Writing is the sorrow of letting a beloved word die to let the sentence breathe at last. 

Writing is blinking at a screen and wondering where all your momentum disappeared to. 

Writing is constructing sixteen layers of structural scaffolding no one but you will understand. 

Writing is reaching new levels of exhaustion, then finding new energy all over again. 

Writing is the sheer fear of sending your work out to be read. 

Writing is the sheer fear of your work never being read. 

Writing is hitting send and instantly finding a typo, an error, a line that doesn’t quite speak the truth.

Writing is an impatient surge of worries while waiting for comments.

Writing is the unexpected joy of finding out someone else loves your precious work. 

Writing is the cringing realization that your beloved masterpiece is self-indulgent and dull.

Writing is crafting the perfect sentence, then abandoning that masterpiece for the perfect paragraph, the perfect section, the perfect chapter, the perfect arc, the perfect work.

Writing is finally prying your hands away from their desire to tweak everything just one more time.

Writing is adding your name to the hundreds of other names all trying to be remembered.

Writing is watching your work meet readers for the first and fifty-second and three-thousandth time. 

Writing is the outlet of a never-quiet mind.

Writing is gathering the thoughts collected while sweeping the floor, brushing by strangers, meandering around the neighborhood, chopping an onion, packing a box, driving to work, chatting with friends, watching the spinning wheel of death, scrubbing the dishes, shampooing hair…


  1. Natasha (Strydhorst) Unsworth

    I love this—you’ve captured writing’s protean persona beautifully.

  2. Josh Parks

    Oh this is lovely! Especially “Writing is coercing yourself to do what makes your brain feel active and creative and alive.”…why does it always take so much coercion?!?

    • Phil Rienstra

      Well, I may have an enneagram-related explanation of sorts, but I’m not sure it would help your underlying existential question here. I also have ADHD, though, so maybe I shouldn’t be the authority on executive function….

      • Josh Parks

        Oh, I’ve got the Enneagram explanation covered: my 5w6 self can’t bear the stages where I’m writing crap.


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