Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write, or why I started writing in the first place, because over time, these two concepts may diverge. An insidious thing can happen: you can lose sight of what you love about the act, and get caught up in the business of writing: wanting to make your first pro sale, getting your pitch ready for the agent you might meet at a convention, creating an online presence and brand, providing product to your readers on a predictable and timely basis, agonizing over your prose and structure in hopes of attracting critical acclaim, etc. But these things aren’t why we started writing originally, are they? And, for me, they can threaten to rob the act of joy, at times making it downright angst-ridden and painful. It starts to feel a whole lot more like work—though to be fair, writing is some people’s job and I hope one day it will be my job, too, in which case I’ll just have to suck it up and accept the work-like aspects, but at least then I’ll be getting paid. Nevertheless, at this point I think it’s useful to step back and reevaluate why it is that I’m drawn to this art form, and why I should be grateful it’s something I get to do.
So…here it is. I write because:
Story ideas occur to me all the time, everywhere.
I think up interesting characters I care about and want to get to know better.
Creating realistic, fully formed, logically consistent, and plausible worlds is a challenge.
I like drawing maps (though I’m not good at it!).
I learn interesting new things while researching.
It is sometimes cathartic, allowing me to work through issues I haven’t in other ways.
It sharpens my powers of observation in everyday life. I more carefully consider and note body language; quirky manners of dress, appearance, and speech; social interaction; motivation; intention; inequality.
It allows me to empathize with people who are different from me in various ways.
To touch, or amuse, or engage readers.
I get to hang out with and talk to other writers and creative people, who feel like my people.
From the time I was a child I wanted to be a writer, and it’s something I keep coming back to.
Creating something out of nothing is an amazing feeling.
Occasional visits to the zone, that place of furious inspiration where my fingers can’t keep up to my brain, are intoxicating.
And there are probably others I’ll think of as soon as I post this.
But that last is what it comes down to, isn’t it? It’s fun. Or it should be, at least on some level. Yes we can make money and garner praise and wave our published books around or at least use them for doorstops—if we’re lucky—but really we do it because it allows us to play and create and express, and this is what we love. Or I do, anyway, it’s probably presumptuous to speak for others.
So, in order to stay in touch with this feeling, this passion, I vow to sometimes write just for fun. To not worry about what market I might submit to, what my critique group might say, or whether what I’m writing about is Important. Some stories or even paragraphs have to be just for me, to remind me what being a writer is really about. If I end up selling them, well, that’s just a bonus. If I stop having fun, that’s a true loss.
What about you? Why do you write? How do you stay in touch with your passion for writing?