Why I Write: Rita Ciresi

Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. But I’m a faux-academic. I teach my classes. Hold my office hours. Attend meetings. Push papers.

I tell strangers I’m a teacher.

I confess only to myself–and the IRS–that I’m a novelist.

* * *

Why does the novelist write?

May as well ask: Why does she breathe?

Or: what dire things transpire when she cannot put words on paper?

* * *

When I can’t write, my head feels chock full of old socks.

When I can’t write, I’m a train threatening to derail.

When I can’t write, I’m like a dog with water in its ear–I want to shake-shake-shake out all the excess.

* * *

Why do you write?

What did you just say? I’m listening to you. But just barely. Because there’s quite another dialogue going on in my head.

* * *

Characters–who do not exist in the real world–are holding extensive conversations in the living room of my brain. They say one thing. No. Strike that. They say another.

* * *

I need to spill it onto the page or else my grey matter will explode from the pressure.

* * *

I write novels because it means I get to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling. I write because it gives me an excuse to take long showers and even longer walks. I write because I can sit for long periods of time in my car without starting the engine. I write because it means I can close my eyes and plug in my iPod and listen to the kind of music that plays on the Relaxation Channel on a transatlantic flight. As brooks burble and waterfalls fall and ocean waves roll in, a story begins to unfold in my head.

* * *

It’s like playing with dolls. All over again.

* * *

Which is not to say that my fictional world looks like Barbie’s Dream House. Very bad things happen in my novels–characters get diagnosed with cancer, siblings die in drunk driving accidents, mothers and daughters exchange hurtful words, marriages fall apart.

* * *

I am looking for the joyful moments hidden in the hours of heartbreak.

* * *

Why do I write?

Why do I get out of bed in the morning?

The answer, so simple: I need to find out what happens next.


Rita Ciresi

About Rita Ciresi

Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You and the story collections Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket. She is director of creative writing at the University of South Florida and a mentor for the Bay Path University online MFA in nonfiction writing.

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