Reason To Write: To Connect With Others

Diana Vilibert: confessional writer, really cool chica...

Way back when, at a time when I was actually managing a products blog over at Nerve, I hired Diana as a blogger. Of course, within the confines of the blog, one couldn’t really see what I loved about her writing: the artistry of her words… the bravery and blatant honesty behind them.

These days, Diana is a freelance writer with clips on Lemondrop,, The Frisky, YourTango, CosmoGIRL!, and other publications. She also has a smokin’ hot sex column on Crave Online. She was the web editor for Marie Claire before going rogue.

She writes a lot of lifestyle content, sort of like I do. But what I really love are the snippets she shares on her Tumblr. Because — while all that other stuff no doubt pays her bills — it’s when she’s getting down and dirty and personal that her writing really shines.

So I’m thrilled to feature Diana in this week’s Reason To Write spot. The post below originally appeared on her personal blog.

Someone once asked me if negative feedback on my writing upsets me. I thought about it and said no, not usually. Of course, a few days later, I got a comment that upset me:

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Reason To Write: A Holiday List

I started the Reason To Write series so that writers could give thanks for the experiences they’ve had and the people they’ve met through writing, and also expound upon the other aspects of the writerly life that make them happy. This week, I’d like to introduce the always-hilarious Ruth Pennebaker, blogger over at The Fabulous Geezersisters, and author of the forthcoming Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough. Ruth decided to use this space to write up a holiday list of all the ways in which writing continues to enrich her life. So when it comes down to it? Perhaps writing is the biggest gift of all.

As always, shoot me an e-mail if you’d like to contribute to this series in the future.

1. I’m not religious and I don’t believe everything “happens for a reason.”  I think life is random and chaotic.  So when I write non-fiction (essays, columns, blog posts, articles), I think I’m trying to make sense of the world.

2. When I write fiction, I get to create my own raw materials and characters and events. So you could say that I have more control over the narrative. The trouble is, you still have to imagine a realistic world where bad things happen to good people and Republicans still won the last election. So you end up trying to make sense out of these events the same way you do with non-fiction. Maybe you have to cede control when you write and allow bad things to happen; otherwise, you would bore the hell out of readers, wouldn’t you?

3. When I was younger, I wrote because I had a talent for it and I wanted people to notice me and see my name in print.

4. Now that I’m older, I think I write for different reasons. It’s partly habit. It’s partly to leave something — my stories — behind. Maybe it’s just for my family or maybe it’s just for me.  Somehow, that’s enough.

5. I also write because I would have made a mediocre lawyer (I have a law degree; don’t ask me why) and a worse neurosurgeon.

6. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, I wish I’d had the talent to be a great lawyer or neurosurgeon. But I don’t. Sometimes I bitch like crazy that the talent I do have is so underappreciated and underpaid. But, at difficult times — say, when my father died in May — I find myself writing and deeply grateful I can write. It helps me. It allows me to express what I need to say. At times like that, I feel sorry for people who can’t write and make something — anything — out of their grief.

7. After 30 years of writing, I write because I love it, it often makes me happy, and I can’t imagine doing anything else or anything better with my life.

Reason To Write: To Make a Difference

Alisa Bowman

Alisa Bowman, my blogging BFF.

The other week, I wrote the kick-off post in a new Freelancedom series — Reason To Write. It was a post about how writing had provided me with the opportunity to experience new things, and discover new passions… like recreational cooking (I’m too much of a disaster in the kitchen to actually call myself an amateur cook, or a foodie). I invited readers to share their own stories.My first guest blogger in the series is the fabulous Alisa Bowman, a laugh-out-loud funny blogger, and the author of the forthcoming Project: Happily Ever After (SUCH a good read!). Her reason to write? Well… read on…

Many years ago, as a newspaper reporter, I wrote because I wanted to make the world a better place. Then, three years into the job, I found myself standing across the street from the house of a woman who had just lost all three of her children. Her ex-husband had shot them all in the head and then set them on fire. Then he’d shot himself.

I was supposed to knock on her door, ask her how she felt and see if she might lend me some photos of her children.

I felt like a slimeball.

I’d just covered a murder like this the week before — and another one the week before that. In the state of Delaware, fathers killing their children had become a “trend,” one that had gained national media attention. News vans and reporters lined the street. This grieving mother could not leave her house without someone sticking a microphone or a camera in her face.

They all wanted a comment from her about how she felt.

I already knew how she felt. She felt like she wanted to die. She felt like she was about to throw up. She felt worse than she’d ever felt in her life.

I didn’t need to ask her how she felt to know that.

I stared at this woman’s front door. I took a deep breath. I let it out with a sigh. I wiped a tear from my cheek. I looked at the other reporters. I sighed again. I got back into my car. I drove to a florist. I sent her flowers.

And then I started combing the want ads.

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Reason To Write: It Got Me Cooking

line of casseroles

I ate all of these.

Last month, I wrote about how my writing had forced me out of my comfort zone, leading me to make my own wine, tour 34 wineries, and even battle my extreme social anxiety in order to give a live reading during NYC’s annual Lit Crawl.

You guys responded with some pretty fabulous stories yourselves. Susan Johnston of The Urban Muse mentioned that she had done a few Mortified readings (so cool!), and Natalia M. Sylvester of Inky Clean wrote of the time she had gone to a bee farm to watch how honey is made (I find this absolutely terrifying).

I love stories like these. Because, while the number one reason I write is to connect with others, the number two reason I write is to give myself an excuse (or an opportunity) to try new things.

And because this is such a huge part of the freelance lifestyle (and of freelancedom, if you will), I’d like to share these stories more often, and hear more of yours.

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