Katie Robbins: Why I Write

In celebration of the National Day on Writing (October 20), we’re asking you why you write. So it only seemed fair that we, the Figment team, told you a little bit about why we write. Today we hear from Figment’s Director of Educational Programming, Katie Robbins, whose writing on food and lifestyle has appeared in publications like Saveur, O Magazine, Bust, and Psychology Today.

When I was about six or seven I had a huge fight with my dad. I can’t remember the exact topic—something about my tortured lack of a certain Care Bear—but I do recall slammed doors, raised voices, and the sound of my small white Keds stomping down our long central hallway. Later as I sat on my bed, staring at some lesser Care Bear through swollen post-tantrum eyes, I noticed a piece of canary yellow paper, folded crisply into a long rectangle, slip underneath my door. It was the kind of paper my dad, a biographer, used to write his manuscripts, rolling each piece carefully through the manual typewriter that, as an unabashed luddite, he insisted on using. I loved that sunny yellow paper; it was more special and precious than the plain white or newsprint I had at my disposal for art projects, and I’d sneak the golden sheets whenever I could.

But now, here was a piece, sneaking its way to me.

I scurried off of my bed, picked it up, and opened it. Inside was a letter from my dad, typed with that same old manual typewriter. It was an apology for shouting and an explanation for the Care Bear embargo, the details of which some 25 years later are foggy. But I’ll never forget the first line of the letter. “Dear Katie,” he wrote. “Sometimes when communicating by talking becomes too difficult, I find that it’s easier to write things down.”

It made perfect sense to me. Here was a way to communicate your ideas and feelings, but with the luxury of a little time to percolate and really perfect (or at least improve) those thoughts. And so I promptly scribbled down a similar note of apology to my dad and snuck it under the door to his study. Pretty soon, he appeared at my bedroom door in person with a hug and invitation to make egg creams in the kitchen. All was forgiven, and we had done it by writing.

Figment is celebrating the National Day on Writing with the New York Times Learning Network, the National Writing Project, and Edutopia. Be sure to tell us why you write on our festival page, read author Q-and-A’s from the New York Times Learning Network and check out more great essays about why writers write at NWP.

2 thoughts on “Katie Robbins: Why I Write

  1. I write becuase I can. It is not important that I be read. Words bouncing back and forth in my mind must be put to paper. Granted, this is not paper but you get the drift.
    Poetry is my fortey, spelling is not.I have a lot to say and writing is my outlet.

  2. I love to write, not for school or for others to read, but for myself. But sometimes when I already have a lot on my plate, from homework to afterschool to family responsibilities, I decide to stop writing for a little while so I can keep up.
    That’s when the Itch starts. I start planning plot twists for a story I haven’t even started, mentally writing the first pages of a novel, filling up with ideas so intense that I wake up in the night just to jot them down. I write because I have to!

    In the play “The Seagull” there is a character, a writer, who has a similar writng sickness. He is tortured by his craft. The difference between me and him is this: I love to write, and I don’t mind the Itch.

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