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Why I Write

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Answer to a Curious Person

At six years old, I was given six months to live, though I did not know what that meant at the time. All I knew was that I would get to do whatever I wanted for the next six months, which meant ice cream at the beach, fishing at the Skokie Lagoons, and wandering through the forest preserve.

I had just been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, but it would take doctors another six months to realize the tumors were benign. I remember the very moment when the doctor announced that I did not have cancer, but a rare and harmless condition. My parents jumped from their seats and hugged with tears in their eyes. I stayed sitting, kicking my legs back and forth, not much caring for whatever the doctor said.

When I look back on that scene in the doctor’s office, I ask myself, What do I do with the gift of life that has been given me? As quickly as I ask the question, the answer comes: Write, and change a reader’s life. That answer, so readily available now, only arose through years of grappling with the intense fear of death this rare condition caused from a young age.

At eight years old, in my backyard on a hot summer day, the realization hit me that one day, no matter what, I would die and be taken from this beautiful world I loved. I desperately devised a plan for immortality: (1) go to a really good college, (2) get really good grades, (3) make a lot of money, (4) buy all healthcare companies, (5) work on cure for immortality, (6) take cure for immortality.

This solution assuaged my worries for a few months, but it was not until reading The Hobbit later that same year that I realized it was not immortality I sought, but meaning. I felt a meaningful relationship with Tolkien, understood the power of the writer-reader relationship, and decided to be an author.

That was almost twenty years ago, and now I am preparing to publish my first novel. Over forty friends, professors, and curious strangers have already read it, but two particular conversations with readers have struck me. The first was with a friend who said the characters of the novel kept appearing in her dreams, and she was working through painful memories through my characters’ experiences. The second was with a professor from Notre Dame, on a Friday I happened to be visiting campus. We walked around South Quad for almost two hours, speaking so quickly it was a wonder we understood each other. He too said he was dreaming about the novel, and analyzed its meaning in terms clearer than I could come up with on my own.

“So, you liked it?” I asked him toward the end of our talk.

“I loved it,” he replied. “It’s changed the way I look at life and understand other people.”

Yes, I thought to myself, this is what my life is about.



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