Friday, April 6, 2018

And why do we do this?

So we've cleared up the idea that anyone can write and that everyone should try to write. Now the question becomes "why?" When people start writing, this comes with some fear -- just like any new endeavor worth taking. But I get asked that question a lot, so here's my thoughts on it:


Q: Why should I write? I’m not a writer…

A: First – don’t write so you can eventually become a writer. Write for the joy, the adventure, the passion, the anger, the frustrating challenge of creating something new. If you do that, you’re already a writer.

As for the other part of “why,” I offer this. One of the fellow writers in my workshop refers to writing as “the cheapest therapy I can find.” That bit of wisdom alone should be enough to put a pen in anyone’s hand (or a keyboard under their fingers), but there’s something far more powerful in putting those words on the page (or screen).

When we write, we explore, and this is not just with fiction. Even if we write about fundamental truths like past memories or our personal feelings, it forces us to work through them, to understand them more deeply. If we really press into those truths, we can discover things that had long been hiding from us in plain sight.

When I started my novel, The Book of Cain, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I knew the characters, I knew the plot, I knew the whole three-act arc. All I needed to do was type out about 73,000 words and it’d be done. Simple, right? Well, not so much. As I turned my thoughts into words, something felt… wrong. Something was missing. And the more I created, the more it confirmed that I didn’t actually know the purpose of the story. I knew the events, but not the meaning, and it felt hollow. So instead of hitting the shelves at Barnes & Noble, it hit the shelf in my home office, still half a manuscript away from completion.

I continued to work on other projects, but I also used this tool of writing to explore what was missing. I wanted to know why this novel, so clear in my head, made no sense when put to words. Years later, as I wrote about my father’s unexpected death, the feelings I explored showed me what was missing from Cain’s story. The feelings of loss and abandonment – feelings I only began dealing with after my father’s passing – were exactly what was missing. Cain didn’t feel genuine because I never gave him the feelings I could not face at the time. I went to my office, dusted off the binder, and reread it. Before I reached chapter three, I knew exactly what needed to be done. At that point, the words could not come out fast enough.

So, why write? Obviously if you enjoy it, that’s the best reason. However, it is a very powerful tool for understanding the world around us and the world inside us. The more we use it for exploring our experiences and lives, the more we will discover.

That’s not a bad reason, is it?

2 comments:

  1. Journaling is a great way to start, for those who don’t have a story in their head.
    It can lead to healthy habits, in addition to sparking ideas

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    Replies
    1. Journaling is the first habit I took up. The best lesson it taught me is to set aside that little piece of time every day to be a writer. Over time, the habit became natural, and I started feeling like a writer (whatever that feels like)

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