Why I Write - Johanna Flashman
Updated: Mar 18
On the first day of a travel writing course I took in college, my professor said two things:
“If you want to be a good creative nonfiction writer, you have to be brave enough to stand in front of thousands of strangers and take your clothes off.”
“I don’t care about you. You have to make me care about you through your writing.”
I’m not sure I entirely agree with the first one, but whenever I write about myself, these two statements always run through my head. In this post, I will attempt to do the second.
I decided I wanted to be a science writer in my senior year of high school. I wanted to write for National Geographic. Write about animal conservation. Travel the world. Make a difference. Win awards.
I didn’t have an exact vision of what that would look like in practice, but that was my goal.
Seven years, an English degree, and two internships later, that goal has shifted and reshaped itself several times. However, I have written for Nat Geo (though only once so far and not about conservation), and people pay me to string words together in a cohesive way.
While those two facts are pretty damn cool (in my opinion), they aren’t really the core reasons for what I do.
Why I Actually Write: Advocacy
The real reason why I write is to get other people’s voices heard. My “Primary Sparketype” is the advocate, meaning I thrive off giving voice to an idea, person, living thing, or community — especially if that voice isn’t getting heard already.
Whether it’s a company whose values I can get behind, a person or group of people whose story hasn’t been told, or animals and nature who can’t speak for themselves — making sure those voices get a platform is what really fills my cup.
Then the writing comes in. Because I am very much one of those literature nerds who will swoon over a fantastically written sentence. I’m always intrigued with what makes a good book impossible to put down (like I will agonize over it). I have been in tears because a book was so spectacularly written, and the author is dead, so we’ll never get to read more of her breath-taking writing. I get excited playing Bananagrams, and I spell out the word Medieval.
I repeat: I’m a nerd.
On top of being an advocate, the second main reason why I write is to make connections. I love the ability writing has to connect with others and keep people connected to each other.
Creating a relationship with the people I interview, the client, and the audience is another one of those things that gets me going. Because everyone is interesting if you dig deep enough, and finding that connection with other people is like entering another world.
Now that my grandparents don’t travel, they call their grandchildren their eyes around the world. If done well, writing can have a similar effect.
Even if I’m not writing for an audience, I write every day with journaling. I journal about the day, my goals, my emotions, my dreams — anything that comes up. It’s a way to process.
Even if I stopped being a “writer” as my profession, I would still write.
At the risk of getting way too clichè, it helps me be a more authentic version of myself.
My Favorite Passion Project
Right now, all of this has come together with a passion project I’ve been creating outside of “work hours”: The Freelance Outdoorswoman.
I interview other womxn freelancers in the outdoor industry (making connections). I write about their story and provide a platform for them to share their knowledge with others (advocacy). And I get to learn from all these amazing womxn living the outdoorsy freelance life in different ways (personal development).
Why I Write
So that’s why I write. From dreaming of being an author “when I grow up,” to landing on science writing, to falling in love with the outdoors, to where I am now. I’m still learning and growing, but I think regardless of where I am, I’ll always be writing.