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Why Do I Write?


This week I've spent some time thinking about why it is that I write. It's been brought on by several things, and I thought I'd share just to get it off of my chest.

A co-worker of mine asked me what I was going to do on my vacation (which starts on Saturday). I told him that I was going to work on the third draft of my novel. His response was that he has a friend that writes poetry and that no one will pay for any of his poems. I think a lot of people have a misconception that us writers do it because we're in it for the money. I blame this on the success of the likes of J. K. Rowling and now E.L. James (side note, what the F is up with these initial names?) and that somehow writing a book magically turns us into millionaires with huge fame. Sure, I think we all secretly hope our writing will catch on like that, but the likelihood is that we're more likely to move up from anonymous to just simply obscure---if we're lucky to get published at all, that is.

The other misconception I've noticed goes in the opposite. People who don't write think that it is merely a waste of time, and much like my co-worker, believe that no one will ever pay us for our musings. It's possible that is true. Try as we might, some of us will never see our book in print and in stores or on e-readers for the cool kids these days. But regrets make many a novel, and so we try and try and try again. To the untrained eye, it seems like we're trying to move mountains with thought alone or falling flat on our face just to get up and do it all over again. And since creative writing---unlike its brethren in scientific, technical, or journalistic writing---seems like a futile "past time" people scoff at is impracticalities.

Those of us who do write, however, write for our own personal reasons. Some do it to chase the dream of being the next Rowling---and end up with a filing cabinet of rejection notices for the effort. Others to amuse themselves with little day dreams put down on paper. Some do it because its in writing that we find truth about ourselves or the world in which we live or in the elusive meaning of life. Others do it to work through an emotional pain they can't name or fathom except to filter it through their character's.

Whatever the reason, writers write simply because they must and if monetary compensation should ever appear for the effort that is mere icing on the cake.

I've also taken a personal look at my own novel and why I have focused in on that story so intensely. Sure, I have that deadline, but what makes it emotionally resonate with me? As readers, we have no trouble pointing to moments, lines, images, or characters that have touched us in any given piece of literature, TV show, movie, or play. We know what touches us just by experiencing the text. Turn that towards our own text, and the question becomes muddled. We know the skeleton the story hangs on intimately and the secrets that didn't quite make the text but linger in our heads when we read over passages.

My novel is a tragedy. It does not end happily ever after, my hero does not find himself saved, rather he is trapped forever to his own inability to forgive and to let go. His sister is the one beacon of hope that we see at the end as she learns what he cannot, and their juxtaposition is what really twists the knife in for me.However, that being said, I find that it emotionally drains me at times to read over it, but it leaves me aching in a good way. This is me dealing with my own father's illness, with the knowledge that I am helpless to it, that I can't make it go away, and that when the time comes I must let go rather I want to or not. I am hopeful that I am more like Mandy and less like Jared, but that is a bridge I will have to cross later---hopefully much, much, MUCH later.

I also find that this story touches on the reality we see in the news day in and day out. Senseless deaths are all around us. Children are shot. People are killed in car accidents or hit and runs. In a social view, I suppose, I am trying to show the fall out in an intense slice of time for two very close and bonded individuals. By having one split in half with two entities, I intend on holding up the mirror I believe we must all gaze upon to understand why it is we still have such darkness in our world. I hope I succeed on some level.

Ever since I learned to read at age 5, I've been captured by stories--all types of stories. Even earlier, when my father would read to me I latched on to the words. I wrote my first "story" of which I never finished at age 6. I wrote my first completed work---with some help of a "big buddy" in school at age 7 for a school project. Done in crayon and long forgotten, it's probably tucked away somewhere. By the time I reached middle school and high school, words and stories were really my truest friends and I wrote on projects with little discipline. I wrote a short story for a class, one I wish I could find, lost on a file on some computer long defunct, based off of a scene in another book. It was a cheerful scene I quickly turned gruesome and tragic and shocked my classmates and teacher with.

College, I learned one could earn a degree---one also considered as meaningless as the writing itself---in Creative Writing. I wrote a few short stories there, but what I wrote most of, due to a lack of confidence in my originals, was fanfiction.

No matter the brand or breed of fiction I am writing, I am always writing it, thinking about it, imagining it. I think those who don't have words trapped inside them will ever understand how the burden becomes heavy. It is not unlike venting about a bad day or situation. Don't do it and one explodes. That is writing to me. I figure I have two choices. Don't write and end up going crazy with the anxiety and the stress of having these stories and characters and ideas chasing me, or write and get them out there on paper even if no one but me shall ever read them.

Oh yeah, and I'd like some money some day for all the work, but don't we all?

Far Away Eyes