Why Write?

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

Still Writing

Hi there, I haven't written in a while, sorry. How are you? Good. 

Just to recap, it was a great start to the year with my short position with our local library, thanks again EPL.ca, and a few other bits of activity that came my way. I have sold a few more books and gained some exposure in online media. What hasn't happened is massive uptick of my book sales or that highly anticipated (by me) movie deal. Okay, well leaving that aside for now, I wanted to share an update with you as I'm sure you've been wondering what the heck I'm doing. 

First of all, with a heavy heart I am closing the book on Jacky Fraser. He has been through enough, losing his mom, almost ruining his relationship with his dad. He has packed his bagpipes and moved on. I started writing about Jacky when I had some connection to the YA world through my own family. Everyone has grown up and I don't know any 13-18 year olds to bounce ideas off of. Happens. 

My current novel project is something completely different. I am attempting to write what I know by exploring human conditions that I know nothing about. In a nutshell, this book deals with the changing relationship of two friends over a 40 year time span. The main characters are my age, but that's where the similarity ends. Each had plans and ambitions after high school and neither ended up doing what they hoped to do. Thematically, it is about passions lost through time and passions rekindled through discovery. Just because you know somebody well, doesn't mean you know them at all. 

The book was written in first draft 10 years ago and I thought it was pretty good then. Now, going through the process of restructuring and rewriting, the book barely resembles its earlier self. I decided to work with a mentor to help me tear this story down and find its strengths. The story outlines have resembled a child's building blocks, easily knocked down once a weakness was discovered. This has been a hard learning experience but so, so worth it. 

You know those times when you read a book that is critically acclaimed and high up on the best selling lists and you ask yourself what the hell is the difference between this and your book, which can't get noticed at a the top of a flag pole with smoke and flashing lights? Going through this process helps to answer that one, along with other's, such as: can I even write any more, what's the matter with me that I don't know, can I please stop now?

I'm not saying this book will become a NY Times best seller when (if) it gets published. I am saying the process of learning what you don't know about writing and storytelling is extremely valuable. 

I have seen a lot of social media posts lately from authors I know and know of. They say things like, I may have to get out of the business and, I may not be the author I thought I was. It is particularly frustrating when some political or celebrity type gets a book deal for millions of dollars for something they probably didn't even write, while authors trying to make a living - don't. It is going to be that way for the rest of time and we have to accept it. Authors have to take the good news we get with the disappointments. We have to continue to make the effort to promote ourselves in order to capture the attention of a severely distracted and sometimes overwhelmed public. It can be done. Don't give up.

If you are an author, if you want to be an author, if you have a story trying to force its way out of your head, you have no choice. Write it. Then get professional help - not that kind. I mean editors, mentors, take a course and attend a writers conference. Assume aways that you don't know everything you need to and strive to be a better writer. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer, if you live in the northern hemisphere. Then get back to work. Your stories won't write themselves.