Why I Write: Jenny Ferguson

I write because I can’t stop. And, yes, I’ve tried quitting. More than once.

The longest time I managed to quit writing was for a period of about four years, while I was an undergraduate at York University. After I graduated, and because I didn’t know what to do with myself, I hadn’t yet found myself, I returned to York as a non-degree student and took a couple creative writing classes. The shortest period of time I’ve quit for… oh, I didn’t clock it, but it was probably five minutes or so. This not a fickle end, but a moment where I needed to quit, desperately, if only for those five minutes.

I quit every other day, every other week, every other month, and at least forty times a year.

But in my life, I’m not generally a quitter. I set out to do what I do and I (mostly) succeed. I’m terrible at my introductory adult ballet class—but I won’t quit, no matter how much my quads ache or the leotard digs into my not-for-ballet body.

But we’re talking about writing here, and not dance. Writing is heavy lifting of ideas, experiences, words, and the indescribably, through lives I have not lived, not yet, won’t ever, and versions of lives I have. But writing is at its core storytelling. And storytelling is part of the fabric of what makes me the person I am. It’s part of how this brain of mine is wired, how this body of mine makes sense of this world.

So those moments when I quit writing, I’m learning to see them for what they are, pauses rather than ends, breaks rather than broken narratives, resting space for the mind and body rather than a final keystroke, a final word, a final story. Because storytelling doesn’t end—doesn’t ever end—and so I pause, and so I write.

About Jenny Ferguson

Jenny Ferguson is Métis, an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice with a PhD. She believes writing and teaching are political acts. BORDER MARKERS, her collection of linked flash fiction narratives, is available from NeWest Press. She lives in Haudenosaunee Territory, where she teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.




  • Ellen ODonnell

    @Breaks rather than broken narratives!” Love that. Thanks for you wonderful words!