Let’s say there are two fictional friends who are talking: Nancy and Terry. Terry’s the writer and Nancy is the friend/confidante.
Nancy,”Why do you insist on doing the one thing that upsets you the most? Why do you continue trying to succeed at something when you never feel it’s good enough? You’re tired and unhappy most of the time because you can’t sleep trying to find the perfect words to write and, when your stories get rejected or get bad reviews, you get depressed. If writing makes you so unhappy and stresses you out so much, why do you write?”
Terry: Cries. That’s all he can do.
The question, why write, is a good one, especially for anyone who is not a writer trying to understand the addictive nature and single-mindedness of an author. This is an obvious question without an answer because there is no answer. It’s also a hard question for a writer to understand. You should ask why breathe, why live? If you are a wolf, why do you hunt and kill? If you are an eagle, why soar, why mate for life? There is no answer, except: because, that’s what you are.
Writers regard ideas, inspired by real life or imagined from the ether, with the same passion as pro-lifers regard unborn fetuses. Ideas gestate in the imagination, they gradually become real, they take form and demand attention. Sometimes they die but, with luck and time, they can be born as fully thought out stories with great potential. Inexperienced mothers (authors) are usually filled with self-doubt about their ability to raise their offspring but full of hope, while seasoned veterans have a better handle on how it’s done, how much the stories will bounce if they are dropped and when to worry about them not coming home on time.
I use the childbirth analogy because it is apt. It starts as an inspiration, a need and starts to grow. The fact of its existence excites us, makes us want to feed it, protect it, love it and help it grow. Then it becomes all too real and interrupts our lives, makes us lose sleep and get moody and cry and worry and “oh my God, what if it’s not good”, and then – it is born. The pain, the crying, the fear, then surrendering and letting the fledgling fly and see how it does.
But that is the reason why we write. It should hurt. Writing should sap all the energy, the emotion, the strength, and the will to live out of you before it enters the world as a fully formed story. It is as much a part of you as a baby, actually more so because there was no other genetics involved.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful, it’s perfect. You should be so proud.”
Then, of course, the post-partum sets in and you fear maybe it won’t do well, it won’t find an audience and it will stay at home for your whole life. That fear and self-doubt never really goes, even if the book sells. This is why so many of the inspirational, uplifting quotes on writing we see posted online are by people who ultimately killed themselves. Writing hurts, but every author, no matter how withdrawn and unhappy they seem, will tell an aspiring author to write. Write often, write everything.
Just like that child who may or not become a doctor or lawyer, or an actress or rock star, the story is a part of you, something that will outlive you and become part of the world.
And creating it is pure joy