Chronicling the Guts of Life: Why I Write

When I began to write, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I have no recollection of when or why it was that I chose to put pen (or pencil) to paper. It could have been as innocent as the fact that I was a child in love with stories. At that time, my life and the world around me seemed to be a fairytale, and the division between dreams and reality was destined to forever be blurred. What I do remember was that I desperately wanted to be an artist- to draw and paint the world inside my mind. I knew this when I was just four or five, and in a way, that has never wavered.

The journey of my writing path has been just as complex and ever-evolving as my travels. I’ve kept a journal since elementary school, filling up page after page in alternating script, leaving me with boxes of untold secrets, woes of solitude, confessions of crushes, self-analyses, recollections of dreams, trite poetry, drawings, blueprints for my future, pro and con lists, trips planned and realized, as well as life’s inevitable failures. The weight of these words is heavier than I could ever explain, for I’ve chronicled the majority of my existence within these dusty notebooks and make-shift diaries. And so, at the age of 34, whenever I want to transport myself to a prior version of me, I can reread these pages and see how far I’ve come, how far off I am, and how far I’ve yet to go to reach that excruciating, expectative, elusive concept of my potential.

So, why do I write? I wish I had an unselfish, philanthropic answer like, “To better the world by sharing my selfless acts of kindness and peaceful demonstrations.” And while I do write about many causes I support- such as human rights, animal welfare, feminism, and so on- this has not always been the case. It is not the core catalyst that wakes me up at 3 O’clock in the morning to jot notes onto napkins, or forces my eyes open wide to spill a narrative onto my laptop screen. I write because I have to; there is no other choice.

Words are my lovers. Sometimes I use them. Sometimes I embrace them. Sometimes they seduce me, and sometimes they betray me. And sometimes, we make something so magnificent together it’s as if we’ve birthed an unfathomably pioneering literary creature. Maybe words won’t always need me, but I will always need them. They’ve allowed me to express myself during pre-teen torment and awkwardness, teenage heartbreak, college delusions and ecstasies, and eventually the journeys I’ve made throughout the world.

I write better than I speak, in any language. It is my strongest form of communication- not only to others, but also to myself. Scrawling words onto a page has offered me a candid meditation of who I am and my purpose on this earth. It has given me the tools to make sense of this crazy, beautiful, fucked-up world. And when nothing at all makes sense, I can at least partially accept the chaos by jotting down mind-reflections. Through the written word, I’ve conveyed realities, sentiments, and fantasies that otherwise would’ve remained an intangible confusion.

What would my purpose in life be, if not for writing? While at UCLA, I took a poetry workshop and immersed myself in the world of poetry. On the bus, walking down the street, in the bathtub, practicing Muay Thai, standing in front of strangers at open mics, I recited the guts of my life aloud and on paper. The obsession was delicious and delirious, and I transformed from a simple, pathless English major to a girl on the brink of literary womanhood. And so, when my poetry professor told me that my poetry wasn’t concrete, that it was nonsensical- I lost it. If I wasn’t meant to write, what in hell would I do with my life?

This was my first toxic dose of criticism, and I’m better for it. I took what he had to say into consideration, improved my poetry, and ultimately said “fuck that shit.” I knew what I was writing, and I knew that there would be many more denunciations to come, but no one could discourage me from being a writer.

Through births and deaths, triumphs and defeats, elation and depression, writing has remained my constant, my pillar. There have been weeks- even months- when I’ve abandoned writing, simply because I wanted to ignore what I was experiencing. And then there have been days upon days when I couldn’t stop writing, even if I wanted to. I don’t exaggerate when I say that writing has saved my life. It’s kept me sane, kept me creative, kept me expressive- but most importantly- it’s kept me alive when all else has seemingly gone awry. When I’ve had nothing else, I’ve had the written word.

And so, aside from writing being a necessity to my well-being, it has over the years become a source of income and a way to help others. It is also a way for me to describe all that I have seen over the course of 10+ years as a traveler. Writing is an ode to my literary heroes and heroines (Philip Roth, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sandra Cisneros, Miguel Pinero, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and too many others to mention), in hopes to somehow honor and shadow their raw literary brilliance. And, like Hunter S. Thompson tapping out the words of Hemingway’s novels on his typewriter, I too want to know what it feels like to write a masterpiece.

6 thoughts on “Chronicling the Guts of Life: Why I Write

  1. Duke Stewart says:

    This was wonderful, Cristina. Criticism might hurt at first but as you say, we become better for it. I love that you took this look inside because I’m always curious about what makes other writers tick. You mentioned a lot of names that I love but as a fellow 34 year old, do you think I’m too set in my ways to enjoy Phillip Roth or Henry Miller for the first time?

    Also, love that you mentioned HST typing out his favorite books to see what it feels like. I always wanted to do that. Have you done it since writing this? Thank you for sharing this. I really needed this read. Take care, Cristina.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cristina Luisa says:

      Hi Duke!

      Thank you so much for your comment; I think I needed your feedback as much as you needed the read!

      You’re right; criticism sucks, but without it, we continue thinking that we’re the most creative/unique/eloquent, etc., and we NEED to have this illusions shattered sometimes. No matter how much we write, or do anything, we can ALWAYS improve. Once we learn to use criticism as a tool, and not take it personally, it is then that we really start to grow as artists.

      By no means do I think you’re too set in your ways to start reading new authors! Philip Roth is brilliant- I’d recommend either Portnoy’s Complaint to get a sense of his earlier work (hilarious piece on the awkwardness of puberty, bowel movements, Judaism, guilt, etc.) or The Human Stain, which delves into how deeply engrained the hierarchies of race are in the U.S. culture. In terms of Henry Miller, he’s also genius, though I’ve only read Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. He was banned in the U.S. for quite some time and was an expat in France for a good portion of his life. He borders on more raw/raunchy writing (if you liked Bukowski or Burroughs, you won’t be offended by him), and he is considered a major predecessor of the Beats’ stream-of-consciousness form of writing.

      I haven’t yet typed up passages of authors I greatly admire (short of quoting them), but this is something I should do soon. Have you done this? I’ve been focusing on NaNoWriMo and am sure it’ll be a writing exercise I do in the coming days.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece- I never know how my readers are going to respond to stuff like this when it’s clearly not about travel.

      Take care as well, Duke!


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