Reasons Why I Write

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!)

(Ahem…sorry.)

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:

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:

Joe Fox:
It wasn’t… personal.

Kathleen Kelly:
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?

Joe Fox:
Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly:
Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

–You’ve Got Mail

After all, that’s why we read.

Isn’t it?

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?

Nothing.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Why do you write? I would love to hear your thoughts.

When Creativity Yields Connection

Zachary Lazar had two choices after his father was murdered. He was only six years old when the tragedy occurred, but as he grew up, he realized he could continue the cycle and seek retribution, or try and figure out what would make someone do such an act. Ultimately, he decided on the latter.

Working as a journalist, Mr. Lazar visited Louisiana State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison farm that was nicknamed “The Alcatraz of the South” and “the bloodiest prison in America.” He went initially to gain more insight about his father’s murderer, and interviewed many inmates in the process. The more he spoke to them, however, the more he realized that he had a lot more in common with them than he expected.

Lazar also realized something else that greatly surprised him.

The level and variations of criminals within the penitentiary was tremendous. But so, also, were the levels of creativity. It was creativity that, if honed correctly, could potentially redirect the mindsets of individuals who maybe believed they had no voice, hope, or choices left.

It was creativity that Lazar had the ability and the opportunity to hone, if he wanted.

Understanding Creativity

I’m switching directions for a moment to ask a question.

Do you think you’re a creative person?

I can almost see some of you cringing through your screens.  And the rest of you are shaking your heads so hard, your vision’s blurred.

Okay, fine. Let me ask you a different question.

  • Do you like to cook? Do you have certain meals that you prefer to make (or eat) over others?
  • What about music? Do you like listening to it? Do you find yourself humming in the silence of the day? Do you find yourself making up quick, silly little songs just to get a laugh out of yourself?
  • Do you watch sports? Do you have something critical to say when your favorite player didn’t make the best play? “He should’ve gone left; that would’ve put ‘im in the clear. How’d he not see that?”
  • Do you think about quitting your job? Do you think about jumping to a whole new industry where you will have to start from the ground up and learn an entirely new trade of work, just to start the business you really want?

Welp, guess what?

You’re a creative person.

Last weekend, early Saturday morning, I decided to clean my office space that was, I’m ashamed to say…un-walkable.  For various reasons over the last year, the condition of my office got worse and worse with clutter. When I could finally no longer push my rolling chair between my computer desk and writing desk…I realized I had a serious problem.

Anyway, to give myself some background noise while I dove into the clutter, I flipped through Hulu and Netflix for a decent new show to enjoy.  Finally, despite the pull of Russian Doll, Love, Death & Robots, and The OA (yes, yes, I will watch them some day!), I landed upon a documentary called The Creative Brain.

Fighting Against Instinct

Here’s how the documentary begins.

When a hamster sees food, what does it do?

Exactly: it eats it.

But, what do humans do?

Sure, we may eat it somewhere down the line, but what do we also do with it?

We cook it. We carve it into shapes. We create competitive TV shows like The Great British Bakeoff, Nailed It!, and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Translation: we literally bypass our instinctual survival needs to simply eat the food presented to us, and instead use said food in ways that go against our most basic nature. This is the very heart of creativity.

About a month ago, I attended Candytopia with some of my friends. As the name suggests, Candytopia is an interactive art exhibit “tastefully curated by Hollywood Candy Queen Jackie Sorkin, realized by master fabricator Zac Hartog, and brought to life by life-long retailer, John Goodman.” Together, they created works of art using and heavily inspired by popular candy.

Were my friends and I able to resist our natural instincts to bite into the exhibits? Of course, we were. We are mature, well-mannered adults (security didn’t hurt, either).

But that didn’t stop me from declaring that if the exhibit didn’t have edible options for me to munch on whilst appreciating said art, I WOULD bite into the freakin’ drywall.

Sometimes the urge to give in to instinct can be undeniable. But the fact that we can choose NOT to, when most other species can’t, again shows that humans with their higher levels of neural complexities must have additional ways to express themselves beyond mere instinct.

But it doesn’t have to stop there.

Creativity and Connection

Think about what creativity does.

  • Think about meals in the restaurants.
  • Think about musical jam sessions in jazz clubs.
  • Think about pottery that artists create based on their personal trauma and life experiences.
  • Heck, think about Candytopia.

The common thread?

People.

Creativity brings people together.

The Creative Brain profiles how various people use creativity to draw others together from the most unlikely of sources.

It profiles an inventor, an artist, an animator/monster maker, a writer, musicians, singers. Sure, they’re what most people think of when thinking of “classic” creativity skills, but how they’re using those skills is both unorthodox and extremely beneficial to others.

The Creative Story of Zachary Lazar

Let’s segue back into Mr. Zachary Lazar’s story.

As a writer, Mr. Lazar had the skill and the ability to hone many of the Angola Prison inmates’ creativity. What’s more–he wanted to help these inmates hone their creativity. The connection he’d felt surprised him, and it was something he wanted to act on further.

So, he began teaching creative writing classes at the Bloodiest Prison in America.

The stigma of being a convicted criminal can cause many, if not all, humans to be blacklisted in society. The details behind the crime, or even if the guilty party was guilty at all, is often disregarded. Mr. Lazar believed that, through creative writing and the opportunity to focus on something other than the weight of the prison time and past mistakes, inmates could re-find something that had been lost over the years: themselves.

As this story is documented in The Creative Brain, the inmates express gratitude and appreciation for the writing classes and other creative outlets given to them. According to statistics presented by the documentary facilitator and neuroscientist David Eagleman, inmates who attend these types of classes are 80% less likely to have a repeat offense after parole.

And why would they need to? They’ve discovered that there is so much more in the world–their world–that they can explore. They’ve come to remember that they are more than just their crime. And now, they want to be more. At least, that is Mr. Lazar’s hope.

Teaching Creativity and Connecting

I can relate to Mr. Lazar’s desire to assist through creativity. A few weeks after starting my blogging hiatus in January, I volunteered at the Mary Hall Freedom House to teach a class on resume writing. (I know, I know–most people would not consider resume writing as a creative endeavor. Trust me, though–it is.) The Mary Hall Freedom House serves as a support system for women and their families struggling to regain footing after hardships (addiction, abuse, life) have struck them down. The resume writing class was part of a week-long series focused towards job-hunting.

I’ve been volunteering at MHFH for the last few years, though usually I taught the grammar and cover letter writing class. After the resume writing class had concluded, I walked around reading over several of the women’s resumes and giving them advice on how they could make their work even more professional, powerful, and personable (I reach high, I reach far 💫✨😲✨).

As I spoke to one woman, I noticed another staring at me out of the corner of my eye. When I’d finished speaking, she immediately asked me, “Are you going to be teaching any other classes this week?”

A couple of other women hard at work on their own resumes lifted their heads as well, seemingly in anticipation of my response. The reaction surprised me; I had been a little silly during class, as I’m prone to do in front of an audience. Through I am extremely passionate about resume writing, my own self-esteem had taken a severe blow not even three days prior due to my own personal events (more on this in another blog post).

I smiled apologetically at them. “Unfortunately, I won’t. But the other instructors will definitely be able to help you if there’s anything I missed.”

To my even further surprise, I saw some of their faces drop. “Aw, but you’re fun when you teach!” one woman called out, and the others nodded eagerly.

As dismissive as a moment that probably is, it had a huge impact on me as I rushed out of the Freedom House to join a conference call in my car. The fact that I could share knowledge on a topic that I loved, and help others improve their lives while they were also enjoying the lesson–was mind-blowing. Not only that, but the fact that I had helped them enough that they wanted to continue the lesson from me–me!–was extremely humbling and flattering. I loved helping people–but it’s still a very new experience to learn that they possibly like when the help comes from me.

Putting Off What’s Most Important

Throughout the last ten years, I’ve worked with people who told me that I am allowed to choose how I live my life. Before then, I legitimately thought that every part of me–my intelligence, my time, my actions, my job, my schooling, even my hobbies–was preordained. All I had to do as an individual was follow after what was already laid out based on my lot in life and react appropriately when necessary to keep matters steady.

The first time a therapist told me that I had a choice, I blew it off. I don’t even think I understood what she meant by it. Thankfully, she was skilled enough to see that I wasn’t understanding, even as I complained about how I never had time to devote to writing my then-hopeful novel.

She said to me, “So then, why don’t you devote time to it?”

“Because,” I snapped, getting more agitated that she was not listening to me, “I don’t have time. I’ve got a full-time job; I teach and coach at my taekwondo school; and I’m starting a resume business. Cleaning, cooking, working out. I have other things I need to take care of first. Writing is the least important thing on the list!”

“Why?” she said again.

“What?”

“Why?” my therapist said, leaning forward in her seat. “Why would you put off something that obviously means so much to you?”

Echoing the sentiments of one of the inmates in The Creative Brain, writing made me sink into another world–my real world. The world that I was truly meant to be a part of. When I write on a regular basis, I am calm and at peace for days after–at a level that my friends and coworkers actually tell me “Wow, you’re in a really good mood!”

And yet, I called it the least important part of my life, to the point where I’d neglected it for…what?

Self-imposed higher responsibilities. Things that looked better and more productive to the outside world.

I didn’t have to be a passive player in what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to live instinctively or reactively. I could pause, review what took up my current time, and make an active decision on whether to continue doing it.

That included my job.

That included taekwondo.

That included JusB Proofreading.

I could create a life that made me smile more. I could live in a way that showed all the different paths that my life could take.

I could be creative in my own life.

Choosing Your Creative Life

Working under JusB Proofreading connected me with a plethora of amazing people. That being said, I was shocked by the amount of clients who would send me their resumes and add, laughing, “Look. I’m just trying to find a job, okay? It doesn’t matter what it is; I’ll take whatever I can get.”

I’m not a career guru. But when I see and hear the misery of someone who is lost and yearning for direction, I see myself from ten years ago, talking to my therapist, completely neglecting the one thing in my life that made me happier with myself than anything or anyone else ever had.

The ability to think beyond mere instinct is intense. The ability to make a mistake, learn from the mistake, and then ensure the mistake never happens again is extraordinary. We are complex, ever-evolving, creative creatures, and we have the ability to mold our lives and help others do the same.

I want to help others be the best so they can help others be the best. Then, the best are getting only the best.

Tiki, engineer and author

The Creative Change Challenge

Several years, ago, while moving into my current house and unpacking the multitude of boxes that I’d brought with me from my apartment, I came upon an interesting piece of paper called “Creative Change.”  On the paper was a list of 12 commandments of sorts, each instructing the user to gently modify her life through small adjustment to her standards of existing.

Here’s the thing.

I have no idea where this list came from.

I’d never seen it before that day, and I certainly don’t remember where I picked it up or who might have given it to me.

The paper itself is highly yellowed and obviously dirtied.  I have a lot of paperwork that is old and should be thrown out, but the only documents I have that look as worn as this list are my kindergarten report cards.

…Yes, I still have my kindergarten report cards.  Let’s stay on task here, shall we?

The Creative Changes

As it is cited at the bottom of the list, the 12 Creative Changes stems from a book called Living Your Life Out Loud: How to Unlock Your Creativity, by Salli Rasberry and Padi Selwyn.  Again, I’ve never heard of the book–but, as my creative side has been severely lacking lately, I’ve decided to get the book and see what else it entails.

As for the Creative Change list itself…I’ve been meaning to put it into effect for a while, now.

Alright, alright–four years’ worth of “awhile” now.  These days, however, it’s becoming more and more mandatory, as I’m feeling something deep inside me shift.

I haven’t spoken much about how my mental and emotional well-being have been faring lately, because I haven’t been able to pinpoint the actual trouble myself.  The truth is, though, that I have become extremely run down.  It if were just lethargy, I would tell myself to snap out of it and walk it off.  But it’s not as clean-cut as that.  And until I get a better understanding…I’ll just leave it and say that, these last few months have been a little tougher than I’d care to admit.

Body Breakdown

Actually, let’s put it this way.  Last Friday, I took the day off to catch up on folding some laundry, prepare my office space for actual office equipment–you know, really take 8 hours to tear down the house and build it back up.

You know what I did?

I folded two loads of laundry, then fell asleep on top of said laundry, still standing but leaning on my bed.

Not even kidding.

My daily living habits are shot and have been shot since at least the end of summer.  I know I’ve been busy, but who hasn’t?  So many of my friends are juggling what I feel to be so much more than I am.  If they can do it, why can’t I?

Creative Change–the Challenge

I’ve also had to be more honest this year with myself and some bad behaviors that I have perpetrated.  For the longest time, denial and victimization worked to put these behaviors off.  However, if I want to evolve and be a better person in order to help and take care of those who mean the most to me, that all has to change.

Cue the improvement montage!

via GIPHY

Now that I have effectively hypnotized you or made you pass out, let’s begin with the Creative Change Challenge.

On the Creative Change list, the first three actions are as follows:

  1.  Set aside one afternoon each week with absolutely no plans.
  2. Learn to pause, taking mini-breaks throughout the day.
  3. Meet stress head-on through relaxation, meditation, and contemplative prayer.

My goal in this personal challenge is to integrate three of the list items into my life every month, until I am effectively incorporated all 12.  At three a month, I should be full immersed by the end of March 2019.

Do I have high hopes for this challenge?

I do.

Why?

Because when random pieces of paper that say exactly what you need them to say, show up a-knockin at your door–you listen, dagnabbit.

creative change list full
The Creative Change list, from the book Living Your Life Out Loud.  A book I’ve never heard of, but am very intrigued.