Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Do Those Crash Test Dummies Keep Getting in the Car?

Why do you write? This question is posed to most writers (pre-published and published) at least once in their lives. There is a standard answer to this particular question. I think it is issued to each aspiring writer along with a thesaurus, a bottle of wine, an extra large economy sized box of chocolate, and a lifetime supply of crying towels.

The answer?

Because I HAVE to.

Sounds great, right? Angsty, dramatic, poetic. I mean, why else would anyone put themselves through the hours toiling away at a keyboard, the rejections and uncertainty? Why else would a person sit alone in a room for hours on end, hours they could spend with family, friends or the male members of the cast of True Blood? (Hey, I’m asking the questions here! I can dream about spending time with whomever I please!)

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.


See! Even Byron agrees! Of course, if his life is an example of the sanity saving effects of writing to empty one’s mind, we are ALL in trouble. And destined to have an affair with a sibling. Maybe he just needed to write more, a lot more!

But, if there is only one answer to this question, what about those people who don’t write because they ‘HAVE’ to? I conducted a little poll of several groups of writers to whom I have access. Some of them gave the prescribed answer in one form or another, but some did not. And some of those who did not are published writers! SHOCKING!! TRAVESTY!! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! How dare they?

I think, perhaps, there are as many reasons writers write as there are writers. I mean, I like to write, even when it is going badly. I LOVE to write when it is going well. But, if something happened and I didn’t write another word I don’t think I would end up shuffling down the street in my bathrobe mumbling to myself. (Actually, I intend to do just that the first week after I sell a book. And I may do it for a month if I ever sell enough books to quit my day job!)

I had a long and successful career as an opera singer. I spent years training for it. I worked my derriere off to achieve it. And I walked away for a variety of reasons without losing my mind. (I was already crazy, so I didn’t have much to lose.) I did it because I had a talent for it, I had the opportunity to train for it and I was lucky enough to be able to do it for a living. I hope to do the same with my writing and for those very same reasons.

Stephen King gave up writing after the horrible accident that almost killed him. The only reason he went back to it was because he was getting on his wife’s nerves (retired husbands tend to do that from what I understand!) and she insisted he get his butt back in the chair. But he would probably have done just fine whether he went back to writing or not. He certainly had nothing to prove.

So here is my question. Why do you write? And do you believe writers write for reasons personal to themselves or do their reasons have to be of the ‘I must write or I’ll die’ persuasion? Who decides if someone is a real writer? And how important is it that we respect each other’s reasons for getting back in that Mercedes time after time and running into those brick walls?


Aileen said...

I thought I was a "have to" but there were long spells in my life where I didn't write. Did I mention how miserable those spells were? Yet I made excuses about not having time. Then all my friends started getting contracts and the jealous inner demon in me insisted I wrote as well if not better than they, so for a while I wrote to prove it. And now I'm back to "have to". I get really grouchy when all the characters in my head start talking at once so I write to free them. Sorta like Byron said.

Louisa Cornell said...

Ah, Aileen, I know exactly what you mean! There are times when my characters are silent as the grave. Usually when I really WANT them to speak up so I can write. Yet, during the times when I need to concentrate on something else, like driving down the interstate doing 70 when my cell phone rings THEN I can't get those same characters to shut up!

Heather Boyd said...

Hmm, so the answer 'because my head will explode' isn't necessarily a fresh one? LOL I write because I love to. I write because if I stop I have no excuses for talking to the characters in my head. Given I live close to a mental health facility, I think its a good reason for my obsession with writing. The last time I didn't write for any length of time, on a holiday, I ended up very anxious. Writing is good stress relief. Hopefully I'm not alone in that.

Cari Hislop said...

I write because I'm a story teller and the stories seem to come out in words though I've started thinking I wouldn't mind getting my hands on a movie camera and showing people a story. I write because I want to know how the story unfolds and then how it ends though of course they never end. I write because my characters make me laugh, teach me things I didn't know I knew and send me on adventures both imaginary and real.

Louisa: Did you know Byron's father also had a long term "affaire" with his own sister? That was one screwed up family! If you haven't yet had a chance to visit Byron's family home, Newstead Abbey, I highly recommend it. It was utterly magical. I wouldn't be surprised if the place is haunted by happy ghosts who refuse to leave.

Heather said...

I've wanted to write since my first year of law school (you know what they say - you have to suffer if you want to write). There were so many amazing story tellers in my family, I wanted to part of that "storied" tradition.

Lexi said...

I write to get the voices out of my head, voices that I heard for YEARS before I finally gave up and let them say their piece. Yeah, I know, schitzo, but there you are. Most of the time, I love writing. Sometimes, though, it's agony. And I find I can't quit thinking about it. Ever. Morning, noon and night, which is another issue. Scuse me. I need to go see my therapist.

Ella Quinn said...

I write because I love it. I have so much fun with my characters.

Marion Browning-Baker
w/a Ella Quinn

Suzanne Johnson said...

I wanted to say I write because I have to, or I write because I love to, and I guess those are true. But mostly I find the actual first-draft phase of writing almost painful. So I'll say I write because I love the feeling of having written!

Carla Swafford said...

I write to entertain myself and then I like to share.

When I'm reading someone else's work, I catch myself fussing about how the plot or romance is going. So by writing my stories, I have no one but myself to blame for not doing it right. :-)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

It's the only way to deal with the crazy that would swamp me if I let it. :) I too have stopped writing for long periods of time while I did other things (travel, school, etc). Now that I'm published, I write because I have to. No, I literally have to or they'll stop giving me money.

I also find it's a good way to deal with the emotions swirling inside me. :)