Welcome back to The Story Behind The Story series. I’m so excited to share Urszula’s big ‘why’ behind her writing. She is one of my favourite bloggers and her short stories and fiction leave a lasting impression on me.
Long before I was writing stories, I was telling them. I’m not sure why I did it back then – I guess it was an urge – or maybe it wasn’t something unique to me. None of the children around me told stories, but they loved to listen to them. Each night before I fell asleep, I’d lie in bed imagining elaborate adventures. I’ve continued to do that to this day.
Now I imagine my characters. Sometimes I imagine scenes that I’m writing, but most often it’s just a scene that will never make it to paper – just background stuff I need to know to write my characters better.
The frustration and work of writing is getting what I see and hear in my imagination into the reader’s imagination. Not until I attempted to write about things that were important did I realize how difficult writing is. It is trying to put into words all those things that are rarely or never described.
The story of why I write begins with reading, which I began doing at the age of six. My favorite story then was “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a sad story of an impoverished little girl’s last moments before death, but I saw the hope in it, the magic even. To me the story, despite its tragedy, is about the power of imagination.
Was it any wonder then that I fell in love with Anne Shirley? Anne had a wonderful imagination that helped her get through some tough times. Granted, her imagination also got her into trouble. Anne made me realize that there was such a thing as a writer, and I wanted to be one. I began writing short stories and poetry in grade school, and by the time I was in high school being a writer seemed the natural choice.
But then I decided to go to art school. It wasn’t out of the blue; I’d been making art and even earning money as a mural painter already. My reasoning being that more than anything I needed subject matter to write about. I picked a school known for its writing program, so that I would have the best of both worlds. I learned a lot in art school – techniques, critical thinking, art history. I’ve been surprised how much art making and writing are similar.
Soon after art school, I moved to Poland. It had always been a dream of mine to live here, at least for some time. I met my husband, we fell in love, got married, and had a baby. Somehow in the midst of responsibilities, I abandoned writing. I abandoned myself.
Very quickly I learned that despite the fact that I cannot explain this drive to write, it is a basic necessity in my life. Even if it something I do just for my well-being, it is extremely important for my survival. About two and a half years ago I made a commitment to writing. I began with 15-minute journaling sessions every day, and soon enough I was back to writing stories and poetry.
I now know that the writing life is for me. Whatever it is that compels me is of the same essence as my spirit. Writing for me is as necessary as the breaths I take. Writing is cathartic, cleansing, therapeutic. So I guess one of the biggest reasons I write is my sanity.
I write because writing is magic. I string together several words and you read them and give them meaning. Even when I omit details about a story, you the reader fill them in with your imagination. What I write cannot exist without an audience. Without an audience, a story is just some words on paper. The reader turns it into an experience.
Writing has been a journey of self-discovery for me. It helps me be a better person, a better mother, and a better wife. It is the best way I know to process my thoughts and figure out solutions. I like how writing connects us – me to you. I like how writing can help us feel understood.
I don’t completely understand where this call to write comes from. Why do some of us feel compelled to tell stories, think about words, live with made up characters in our heads? It is a strange thing. But I know this for sure, I will be writing until my last breath, because I am a writer.
Urszula Humienik writes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry, while also working on her first novel, titled Native Landscapes. She grew up in Chicago, but moved to Poland in 2006. When she’s not writing, she’s translating, proofreading or editing others’ work.