Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why we write

I met two of my best author friends yesterday for a write in. All three of us are deep in the jungle that is the revision process, and it seems editorial misery loves company. Writers revising their work inevitably experience editorial mood swings. Some passages are so wonderful, you can't help but picture your book on the bestseller list, others are so horrible you feel your trash bin is too good for it. (The true future of the novel is probably somewhere in between.)
It was during one of these murkier moments that my friend and fellow author, Sally Wyman Paradysz turned to me and asked that crucial question: "Why do we write, again?"
These moments of self-doubt are not limited to revising our work. Writing is HARD throughout the process. It takes a lot of work to transform the tiny seed of a story idea into the mighty oak of a finished novel. Crafting a story and writing it down requires work and sacrifice. There are only so many hours in a day, and good writing can take many of them. Even when you have a completed first draft, you are far from the finished product.
So why do it? Why devote hundreds of hours to writing a novel, only to turn around and spend hundreds more tearing it all apart?
It's not because it's fun. At least, that can't be the only reason. Writing certainly can be fun. The scenes that fly from your mind to your keyboard seemingly without your intervention are incredibly fun. When your characters take control and steer your story where it has to go, and you are the lucky one who gets to read the story first; well, that's exhilarating. But, so much of writing is puzzling over word choice, agonizing over story questions, and slogging through slow but necessary scenes, only to rewrite them later because they're too slow. If we only write because it's fun, we won't be writing very long.
For me, the answer is more basic, more essential. I write because I have to; or rather, I write because not writing is worse than the alternative. Sure, I can get away with not writing for a while. It's always easy to find something that needs to be done sooner, or something that would be more fun, but not writing catches up with me. It's almost like holding your breath. You can hold it, but if you hold it long enough, you'll be sorry you did.
So, Sally, keep writing, and please, please, PLEASE, keep reminding me why I do!

What about you? Do you write? And, remind me again, why do you do it?


  1. I write to escape reality. Only in my mind is the universe wonderfully perfect. My characters always do what I tell them to and they never argue or talk back to me. They are my favorite sort of people, lol. I write because it's the only way I know to remain sane in this insane world :)

  2. Ah, staying sane in an insane world is certainly preferable to holding your breath!

  3. You're lucky, Amanda. My characters sometimes have a will of their own. They try to highjack my stories and take them somewhere I never intended. But I agree that living in their world is an experience I would not want to give up . . . so I write!

  4. For me, writing is heart-pumping, brow-scrunching CHALLENGE - something my work day rarely offers! It gets my little gray cells buzzing and bumping into each other, and, yeah, it feels good. Until I disgorge from my subconscioius a story that I can believe in and run with, publishing is not a concern. But I live in the hope that my story will come.

  5. Hmmm...Writing is cathartic. It's a chance to right wrongs and make the world what it should be instead of what it too often is. Okay, 24 words. Whew! I have officially written today!