Why do you write?
Why does anyone write?
For many of us, me included, writing as a career barely scrapes by on the making money meter. My writing is heavily supported by a spouse and his income. And even when I was without spousal income and worked at a newspaper as an on-staff journalist, my writing salary was not a cushy one.
So. If most of us don’t write for the money, why do we?
This has been a question I’ve contemplated for the last ten years or so. No joke. I have run the gamut between writing 30,000 words a week on a WIP to deciding that I am throwing in the towel and I am never going to write another word ever again. I have felt the very highest of highs with writing. And I have scraped the very lowest of lows with writing. And through the up and down and backward and forwards, I have occasionally stepped away from my crazy and observed myself, asking: why? Why do you do it?
Is it this inescapable *need* to create?
I once scoffed at this idea; it was during that moment when I walked away from writing, vowing to never do it again. At that point, I had been steadily writing both as a journalist/career and as a wannabe author for over 15 years. But I was done. I didn’t want to deal with the rejections any more; the 1 in 10 million chance of being published in an industry that is absolutely about luck; and the constant shroud of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-hatred that I walked under.
I gathered all of my writing books (something like 25 or 30 books) and all of my empty journals and put them in a black trash bag for Goodwill. I deleted my Scrivener program. I withdrew from the various writing programs/sites/groups that I took part in, and I told my writing friends I was no longer going to torture myself with this horrible, no-good, very bad career.
I. Was. Done.
For five years.
Well, actually, maybe for like three years, because I couldn’t escape from it. I became a real estate agent. Then I worked as a preschool teacher. I loaded my schedule with other stuff; volunteering, running, yoga (soooo much yoga), and I refused to even think about writing. In fact, when I did, the darkness of a deep depression would threaten from the side stage and I would back off from the thought.
But. It crept in. Slowly. Surely. Creepy crawling and in general being a right ass. A stalker. My writing stalked me. I couldn’t get away from it. The ideas started to pour into my brain. I would find myself daydreaming different plots. Or overhearing conversations and thinking: “that would be a good idea.”
I was doomed. And then somewhere in there my spouse brought out the bag for Goodwill and handed it to me. And that was the end of that.
Hello, writing, my old friend.
But. I knew that as I started to write again, dipping my toes in, that I had to find a reason to write that had nothing to do with social standing, money, or being published. I knew that if I was going to continue to write that I would need to figure out a way to make the writing something more, something bigger. Thus the last decade of figuring out why we write.
Obviously, there is something within my poor decrepit brain that demands that I write. I cannot get away from it, and I know of other writers who have had similar experiences. To not write is to miss something very, very essential to our beings (no matter how woo-woo that might sound, truth, man, truth!).
But, that didn’t help when the gloomies knocked on the door and wanted access. Didn’t help when the rejections started again, or when the negative assholes started their tirade about the unlikeliness of ever “making it.”
So, as I started to listen and read what other writers had to say on the matter, and my own take, I came up with these reasons:
- Have to… it is inescapable, so, just deal with it.
- I have ideas and I need to get them out of my head.
- I want to make a point about something, and I want others to read it (blogging? ha!).
- Because I can’t find the kind of book I want to read so I will write it (legit, reason, people. Legit).
- I am having fun.
It is when I got to that last one, that number five, that I started to really figure out how to walk out from under the shroud.
Now, to help you lovelies with a general understanding, I am a terribly serious person. Adults joked when I was younger that I was a little old lady in a child’s body. I have always been serious. I will laugh and I like comedy, it isn’t that, but I see everything through a rather logical lens that takes away some of the whimsical in life. This is how my brain is structured. So. Having fun, that is a rather hard concept for me, especially when it is supposed to be… you know… work.
But then I started to think about the books that I love, the ones that I always go back to, and mostly they are the books that I have fun reading rather than the more serious tomes. Sure sure, I have literary books that I read because of the language and the plot structures (see Woolf for instance, oh and Ondaatje); but I truly love the stories that are stories… that are transportable, that bring the reader to a different place, and in which there is none of this logical brain thing, but rather an immersion.
I am entertained when I read these books.
I am… dare I say… having fun.
Why then, as a writer, can I not also capture that fun? That entertainment?
Why can’t my writing be fun?
I suppose for some of you, dear readers, you will be amused at my epiphany; as in, “of course you should have fun with your writing.” But I am telling you, this was truly a light bulb moment… and one that I find, alas, is not as easily implemented as I would have liked.
It’s hard to have fun under a deadline. Or when there are rejections. Or when you have to get through the damn middle part of a novel. But I am working on it, because it motivates me to keep going, to keep writing, because if I am having fun, then that is my end goal. A work in progress for sure, but a productive one.
For you, though, readers… what is your reason for writing?
Is it to escape?
Is it get things out of your head; uncluttering your thoughts?
Is it because you want to connect to others?
Is it because you can NOT create?