Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why I Keep Writing

Last week I wrote about how hard it is to stay motivated to keep on writing.There are a thousand reasons to quit:

  • Writing is hard. It takes years to develop skill and even once we have developed all the tools of our craft, we must still struggle to express our ideas in a compelling manner.
  • Our first efforts are usually less than memorable to put it kindly.
  • No one really cares much whether our stories get told or not. After all, a novel, short story, poem or essay will not end hunger or bring about world peace.
  • If we're honest we have to concede that most people forget a book, movie or story very soon after seeing it. No matter how good it is.
  • To get anyone to pay attention to our work we have to be excellent marketers and/or salespeople. Many, if not most of us are not.
  • Most of us are never going to get rich and famous from our writing. We're more likely to win the lottery.
So why write? Why not take up something more satisfying like knitting or playing the guitar?

I promised to list the reasons I keep writing. Here they are in no particular order.
  • Imaginary people live in my head. All kinds of crazy things happen to them and they insist on telling me about them. They won't leave me alone until I write down their stories.
  • There are techniques I'm not good at. I get frequent urges to practice these even when the results are less than thrilling. Experience has taught me that eventually I'll get better. The exhilaration of conquering a technique that has until now eluded me is incomparable.
  • Sometimes an atmosphere, an emotion, a vision, or a circumstance stirs my imagination. In the hands of someone else, these would be transformed into poems. In my case, I am driven to create a story in which to contain them.
  • I love words. I love the sound of them, the feel of them in my mouth. I love to look at them,  tiny black soldiers marching left to right across a white expanse to create a world, a universe, that never existed before. I love selecting the right ones and placing them in the best possible order  so that the reader can see, feel, hear exactly what I do. I paint with words.
  • I love the surprise of writing. I never know how a story is going to turn out until I write it. I often go into it believing I know how it will go only to discover that the characters take matters into their own hands and carry the story to places I never imagined.
  • I am intrigued by the task of how to put events in the right order so that the reader gets just the information he needs at any given point and no more and yet the story proceeds in a coherent fashion. 

Notice that every reason I have listed is about the process of writing, not the outcome.

I think that's the lesson here. At least for me. We have to love to write. We have to look forward to sitting down at the keyboard every morning and meeting that day's challenges and opportunities. For me it has to be about the story and how to tell it simply, beautifully, convincingly. It has to come down to choosing each word and each scene so I can paint a complete portrait of my imagined world.

If thoughts break in about whether a publisher will like it or whether my story is "commercial", I can't do my job. I'm thinking about the wrong things. I'm worrying about results over which I have very little control.

What I can control--at least to the limit of my talent and skill--is whether I have written my story well.

3 comments:

  1. Once again you have dazzled me with your words.Im so very proud of you.

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  2. I write mostly nonfiction, freelance articles/posts. Like you mentioned in one of your points, I like pulling words together, forming them to paint the pictures I want, convey the ideas or information I desire. I love when people read something I've written and react to it-- it triggers a memory for them, or a thought, or ignites their imagination, or gives them new information. Then I know I've done my work well. So for me, there is the process, but there is actually a little bit of the outcome too. I find that very satisfying.

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  3. Those are some very good reasons to write and keep writing.

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