I mean, really, what’s the point of writing?
“WTAF?” is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. What’s the point of crying, of protesting, of sharing my feelings online? What’s the point of trying to make my voice heard when it’s clear no one is interested in hearing it?
With everything—and I mean, everything—going on in the world lately, it’s easy to wonder what the point is…and even easier to struggle coming up with an answer. This is especially true with our writing.
Why Do I Write?
Last month, I celebrated the two-year anniversary of my debut novel, Inconvenient Daughter, while chipping away at my second novel—still unnamed and still unfinished. As I alternated staring at a copy of ID and the blinking cursor of my work in progress, I asked myself, “Why? Why do I do this?”
As a beginning writer, I wrote because I thought I had something to say. I wrote to be seen, to be heard. Part of me wrote to settle scores and prove people wrong. Another part of me wrote so others would bear witness to my pain.
It wasn’t until after Inconvenient Daughter hit shelves I realized writing is about connecting.
I don’t know you, but…
After ID dropped, I received probably fifty emails that began with this phrase.
“I don’t know you, but I wanted to thank you for writing this book.”
“I don’t know you, but after reading this book I feel like I finally know myself.”
“I don’t know you, but this is the book I needed when I was a young adoptee.”
Adoptees from all locations, ages, and situations reached out to let me know they felt seen by the book, that a voice had been given to their grief, pain, and anger…that they gave the book to someone they loved in the hope of coming to a better understanding and healing.
The act of writing may be solitary, but the act of reading, of relating, is communal. We may write to understand who we are, and the things that have happened to us, but we read for the same reasons.
It is in reading that we find community, and community is everything.
One Is the Loneliest Number
As an adoptee, I’ve always heard the same thing: I was given a better life. It was as if, by adopting me, my parents had spared me some unimaginable suffering. It was impressed upon me as gospel, and I developed a sense of obligatory gratitude. I was convinced I had to repay my parents for the life I’d been with loyalty, with being a good student, etc.
But as I came of age, I began to wonder about my birth mother, about why she relinquished me, about why she had never come looking for me…and I was angry. I was angry all the time. My rage burned through me like a fever I could never seem to cool down from.
My brother, who is also adopted, didn’t seem to have the questions I did. Neither did the boy down the block, a domestic infant adoptee. And neither did the two girls my mom’s friend had adopted from South America. And so, I thought something must be wrong with me. There must be something different about me. I must somehow be defective.
Worse than rage, pain, and anger is loneliness.
In these times of uncertainty and threat, we must continue to write. We must continue to share. We must continue to make our voices heard…for we don’t know what hope, what comfort, and what strength we give to others by doing so.
Lauren J. Sharkey is a writer, teacher, and transracial adoptee. Inconvenient Daughter is her debut novel, and loosely based on her experience as a Korean adoptee. You can follow her at ljsharks.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.