When I told my mom the news of my very first book sale, she heaved a sigh of relief. “So you’re not weird, after all. You’re a writer, and writers are supposed to be eccentric.”

That, in its simplest form, is why I write. It’s not what I do; it’s who I am. Though, yeah, it was nice having an excuse for my persistent weirdness.

But there are other reasons. I write to escape, to grow, to make use of a world where I don’t always fit in. I write to share my emotions and opinions, to make sense of life, and to use up the surplus of words that float around in my brain. I’ve always been a talker, and if not for the outlet the books provide, people would be hugely sick of my voice.

I find sanctuary in writing. The real world can be a brutal place. Really, what control do we have in our lives? So many of the decisions that make or break us are out of our hands. We have to deal with politicians, corporations, the unfairness of life, the ugliness of the human condition. We can work our very hardest, do our very best, and still fail.

But the worlds in my head (always two or three of them at any given time): those are mine. I am in control. I am the queen of everything that happens in them. There is no problem facing my characters that I cannot make better, no hurt I can’t fix, no happiness I can’t express. The scariness of life, disappointment, betrayal, chaos, peace, death, love, hate, guilt, indifference, heartache—with all those excess words looking for an outlet, I can make things right for those characters.

I not only get to provide cheap entertainment for myself, which is pretty cool, but I can entertain other people. Readers have shared their fears with me, their memories, their low points, and their hopes for high points, and they do it because I’ve written characters going through what they’re going through. I may not have personal experience, but I have loads of empathy, and those wonderful words help that to come across.

When I was a kid, words weren’t so lovely. I had a speech problem, and only those closest to me could understand me. Kids teased, and teachers got exasperated. Two great things came out of it: my love of reading (books didn’t laugh) and my habit of observing others at any and all times. I still do both, still love both, and put them together in every page I write.

I write because I’m eccentric, and because words have the power to wound but also to heal, to enlighten and encourage and entertain and amuse, and to satisfy a yearning in all of us. And because words are also truth, I do it because I really am weird. And I’m okay with that, because I am a writer.

Marilyn Pappano is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly 80 books. Her newest book is A Hero to Come Home To from Grand Central/Forever. You can learn more at www.marilynpappano.com.