In my last major post, I discussed my fears to pursue my lifelong sleeping desire to be a novelist. I call it a sleeping desire because, although I have literally been writing, illustrating, and narrating stories since I was in the single digits, I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I deserved to be a published author until about five years ago.
Even now, as I sit on a “completed” novel that I still hold fondly (and securely) to my heart, I still struggle with believing that my work will be enjoyed by the mass public. But that internal struggle isn’t getting me anywhere–and it sure isn’t getting my novel anywhere closer to publication.
I lost my way in the fear.
Heck, I lost myself in my fear.
A few days after posting “I am Afraid to Write,” I was reminded of something very important, something that encouraged me to look beyond my fears. Not just beyond, but across the grander expanse in which my fear was not far-reaching enough to extend. For someone who has been writing nearly her entire life, I know that fear is not the reason nor the catalyst as to why I started writing in the first place.
So, then, what was? What is?
In summary–why do I write?
I write this post to reflect my own writing journey, but the questions that serve as headings below hopefully also serve as signposts for any writer who may have also lost their way in the landscape of fear and insecurity.
(On a side note…d’you see that extended metaphor up there?? D’you see it?? That’s some durn sexy metaphor work right chere! 🙌 I’m gettin’ my creative mojo back, baby!)
Why Do You Write?
Believe it or not, but in my 30-something years of writing fiction…I never really thought about why I do it. Throughout the M.o.B blog, I’ve sprinkled my enjoyment of writing in my lessons, analogies, and explanations.
A few notable posts:
- Circling the Drain
- Mid-30s, Female, Single and Awesome
- The Fear Who Would Be King
- Connection and Creativity
- Online, Take Two
- Writing Is…
I won’t reinvent the wheel in what I’ve already shared. However, the primary, easiest, and obvious answer is this:
I write because it’s a part of me.
When I move through extended periods of time without writing something, I begin to grow irritable and annoyed with…well, everything. When it first happened, I couldn’t understand why everything was suddenly ticking me off.
Then, I had a weekend to write in a novel I had put on hold for a few months. For the following week afterward, my productivity at work improved. I became more aware, intuitive, and even more spiritually in tune. The world made sense. I was content.
Then again, as the weeks passed without a chance to write, my irritability returned. And 2 and 2 made 4.
Writing is the most gentle, calmest way to release what’s bound up inside you. When you write your innermost self down, whether it’s in the form of a poem, a story, a blog post, or even stream of consciousness, no one can negate those words. They exist, and you watch them come to life as your pen scratches paper, or your fingertips tap keys.
I write because it’s an escape.
In the post “Writing Is…” I tell the story of the moment when I consciously began writing to free myself from the tyranny that was my parents’ attention and love. As I grew older and experienced the hills and valleys of life, I met each obstacle with varying amounts of success. By the time I reached college, bouts of depression were prevalent. I graduated, got a job, had a breakdown or two, moved to a new city, got another job, got fired, and juggled around until I ended up where I am today.
No matter what happened, though, even if I couldn’t physically will myself to leave my dorm room, my apartment, or my house, writing was always an option to get away from it all. The characters that I’ve developed over the years were fully formed. The worlds they inhabited were rich with problems, but they were problems that I’d manifested and therefore could also resolve.
I could write for hours and become pillowed in depths of imagination. There wasn’t a concern of good or bad writing; it was just writing. Here, not even depression could find me. For just a few hours (maybe more), I was safe. I was needed.
I was home.
I write better than I speak.
The other day, I was chatting with a friend about communication. I came to a revelation just as I was telling her my truth:
“I hate talking,” I said. “I feel like I’m always stumbling over my words; I miss a lot of the social cues of when to start talking and when to stop. And when I do talk, I feel like I’m being normal; but people just stare at me after I’m done. I feel like a freak!
“I would rather write, sing, dance, touch, eye contact, gesture, or pantomime to express myself than to talk,” I concluded. The irony that I was talking when I said this was not lost on me.
I feel like my innermost strengths lie more in expressing myself through my work than engaging in small talk. And it is no secret that verbal cues play a very small part in actually communicating with others.
Writing gives me a moment to collect my thoughts before I respond. As an introvert, I need time to process many of my thoughts, especially if the question reflected to me is multi-faceted. That’s not saying that I can’t talk; I just know that a truer form of myself is better replicated in the written word. Usually.
Or, you know what? Just cuddle me. That should work, too.
Additional “Why I Write” Questions
A few other questions came my way as I was contemplating the big WHY, and I thought I should share them here and at least touch on them for a moment.
What do you want to get out of writing your work?
Many authors and writing “experts” claim that, once you publish a book, you should detach from it, let it go. That way, any attention you receive (or don’t receive) won’t affect you as hard. I don’t agree with that philosophy.
A quote from one of my favorite movies said it best, I think:
It wasn’t… personal.
Kathleen Kelly:–You’ve Got Mail
What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?
Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
After all, that’s why we read.
We read to find the personal. We read to be personal with someone–even if that someone is a fictional boy who avenges his wizard parents and defends his magical school and friends. Or that someone is a young woman who, despite her lack of dowry and poor upbringing, asserts her presence as an intellectual equal to that of a handsome, well-endowed, yet seemingly standoffish man. Or that someone is a little hobbit whom no one expected anything from, yet endured almost more than anyone.
The gifts that writers selflessly offer to the world, they give because it is the story that only they can tell. Though I’m sure all of them will have different answers, a story is told because it must be told.
In college, I took a specialized, one-on-one course with a professor while I developed a fantasy novella. Though I rushed a bit on the writing, I was quite proud of the story and submitted it for her scrutiny. I also gave a copy of the story to a counselor that I used to see but had become friends with.
When I met the professor for her unbiased feedback, she didn’t hold back. “It’s under-written and unrealized,” she told me, tossing my manuscript onto her desk. “It reads like something a child would write.” The feedback stunned me silent for so long and so hard that the notoriously hardened instructor finally amended that perhaps she’d “read it too fast.”
For weeks, I moved devastated throughout my days, unsure of how to proceed with other books that I’d had in my mind for years. Not only that, but English was the fourth major that I had switched to since being in college. If I, a lover of the written word and grammarphile since 5 years old couldn’t make it as a writer of any sort, what was I good for?
Then, as if by cue, I received an email from my counselor in the middle of her vacation. Apparently, she hadn’t been able to wait until she’d returned from her time off at the beach before she could tell me how much she’d loved my story. From the moment she’d finally begun reading, she’d taken my manuscript everywhere, breaking it open whenever she had a free moment.
So, what do I want to “get” from writing?
What I want, however, is to give others the same sense of pleasure and peace that I feel when I read a good book. Knowing that I helped contribute to someone else’s positive state of mind means that I shared an intimate piece of myself–and it was happily received. Perhaps even welcomed.
What do you expect to happen from writing and publishing your work(s)?
Honestly? Not a clue.
I hope that I can make enough income from published books to allow me more time, freedom, and security to write fiction and nonfiction on a full-time basis. This would also allow me more time to dedicate to other areas of my life. Tend to my family. Travel. Goodwill. Love. Life.
I could go on, but the focus for the sake of this post is writing.
The goal isn’t to be rich, but to have enough energy and time before I’m decrepit and senile to record all of the stories that have crossed my mind. And there are a lot of stories in my mind.
Since last year, I’m even realizing that some of my stories would do better in screenplay form. So I want to have enough time to see those to fruition on the big screen and the Netflix stream. I want creative control to see my vision in the format that I always envisioned it.
I’ve begun writing like I’m running out of time, because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Are you looking to see how your work is received or viewed by others (impact)? Are you looking for fame and fortune?
I’m not going to lie–would it be cool to win a Nobel Prize for Literature? A Pulitzer for Fiction? A Hugo Award? A Nebula Award?
Would I be ecstatic to disover that I’ve made the New York Times Best Seller list? #1 for more weeks than anyone ever?
Would I stare, speechless, from receiving an invitation to meet Oprah as she unveils me as her latest top addition to Oprah’s Book Club?
…Why yes. It would all be quite lovely.
But, that’s not why I write. If I wrote with that mindset all the time, I’d be scared excrement-less.
When I was in high school and my friends would peer at me as I bent over my journal, scratching away, I got a sick sense of superiority from my seemingly unique stance. There were not many kids that I knew who were writing at the “uber-cool” level that I was.
Them? They were doing generic teenager things like dating and going to parties with friends and shopping and…and hanging out n chilln.
Me? I was 15, listening to smooth jazz on a Friday night while burning sticks of sandalwood incense, scribbling pages upon pages of character profiles for my fantasy/science fiction magnum opus.
You couldn’t think of anyone cooler than me.
There have been times when I’ve shared my writing with people whose opinion I valued highly, only for them to come back and tell me, “Actually, I got a little bored, so I stopped.” The feedback was devastating, and I would throw the story at the bottom of the pile for it to collect its proverbial dust.
And yet…the stories never left me.
It’s only by writing this now, do I remember that
- One person’s opinion is one person’s opinion. Just because she/he didn’t like it doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t.
- It’s not my place to determine the rest of the world’s likes and dislikes. Let them read and decide for themselves.
I don’t write to make masterpieces. I don’t write to prompt a room full of English majors to debate the significance of a green bottle in Chapter 3.
If I write for anyone, it’s for the readers who pick up my book to help them detach, relax, unwind, escape.
I’m writing for the introverted outcast who always feels like they are too “them” to belong anywhere.
I’m writing for the reader who is trying to find that one “perfect” novel that makes them laugh, cry, and scream at the same time.
Does that make me a writer who isn’t reaching high enough?
Who the flip cares.
This world has enough crap happening for people to not be able to just enjoy a good book.
I write to write. And I must write.
Because, at this stage in my life, to not write is to deny me of myself.
And I’ve wasted enough time doing that already.