Why I Write

Written: November 22, 2019

(First published on Medium)

Three months ago, I quit my job as a software engineer at Microsoft. I had a one-way flight to Seoul and one major goal: to write a book. Why? What do I want to do with my life? I found myself asking this question so regularly that I decided to make dedicated space just for reflecting on that.

I was more than the job I worked and the money I made and the city I lived in and the people I knew. You can self-reflect from anywhere, but I wanted to remove myself from the noise of my everyday life to get different perspectives.

Who am I? This is the question I ask myself every morning. I am many things. One answer: I write, so I am a writer. And so I resolved to explore my voice as a writer, away from the familiar life, the comfortable job, and the predictable days.

Why do I write? I write because I like writing. I write to play with the feelings evoked from different combinations of words. I write to inscribe vivid images in my head inspired from dreams, observations, and imagined scenarios. I write to express myself, to translate my feelings into words. I write to reflect.

I write whatever I feel like. I write short stories about the people sitting next to me on the bus and about impossible situations I conjure up as I hike a mountain. I write the details of a meal I enjoyed eating and about the strange couple arguing loudly at the train station. I write small snippets of poetry as I walk to the subway station or as I take a hot shower. I write small notes to my mother for her birthday, I write travel itineraries on the back of receipts, I write the outlines for my grad school applications. I write so that I can write more. I write on the subway. I write in the café, I write in bed, and today I write on the bus. For me, writing is not a phase nor an end goal — it is a process. I write for myself. Even if no one reads anything I write, I will not regret a single word I wrote. This art is for me, even if I write a book that no one will read.

When I was younger, one of my earliest dreams was of becoming a writer. For the child version of myself, this meant having a stack of books with my name on the cover. The definition of “writer” has expanded for me in my time since then. In different phases of my life, writing has been my hobby, my coping mechanism, my medium of creativity. Now, it is my tool of exploration and expression. In the past three months, I have learned to listen to my voice, my style, to let it change and wilt and blossom and shift in different ways. Now, my full-time job is to find my voice — in writing and in life in general. I don’t think there is anything more important I could be doing right now to figure out what I want to do next with my life. I am working on a novel now. Some days, I feel more comfortable talking about it with strangers than with close friends. The plot is my secret, but here are some key words: magical realism, Korean folk tales, empowered female characters, life-meaning-searching, love and death and family. And mountains.

After I quit my job, I retraced my life in reverse chronological order: I road tripped from Seattle (where I had my first job as an adult) to Louisiana (where I went to high school), flew to Boston (where I spent my childhood) and moved to Seoul (where I was born). After such a poetic journey, I found myself mentally and emotionally prepared to give myself the freedom to pursue my childhood dream of “becoming a writer,” of exploring writing as a creative tool of expression, exploration, storytelling, and reflection.