Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why Do We Write?

This blog post was originally featured back in February. From time to time, I find myself asking the same question. Why do I want to write stories so badly?

The first story I ever wrote was called something like "The Lion and the Turtle." I was in first grade and my mom helped me put it together in a nice plastic document protector. I remember seeing it hung outside the classroom on the bulletin board and feeling an overwhelming sense of pride.

The next memory of writing that I have was in fifth or sixth grade when a few friends and I started writing a story together. By then I could walk from the library, all the way down the hall, and to my desk while still reading the book I had checked out. It was during this time that I got my first look at the writer's ego. As senior elementary students, all boys at that, the topic of our story was none other than the secret adventures we shared with our super secret supernatural powers. As the story went on it seemed as if each of us had to compete to be the toughest superhero. In no time at all the steam fizzled out and we gave up the venture, the competition for having the best super powers sapped our desire to write the story.

In Junior High I started writing poetry and attempted a few short stories. More than anything I loved to draw. I wasn't really ever very good at it by normal standards but it was my passion. There is a sad story behind why I stopped drawing but we'll save that for another topic.

Once I reached High School my writing really took hold and I wrote very passionately. I took Creative Writing classes every semester I could and was even allowed to join the High School paper for the second semester without having participated in the first semester. It wasn't that I was an exceptional writer by any means, I was just passionate. In all actuality my articles in the school newspaper were a joke, a mockery of the hard work and dedication that the rest of the students had put into the process. I had no beats, I wasn't assigned specific events to cover. I was nothing more than a funny/quirky editorialist. Though I must admit, I am still quite proud of my article on the adverse effects of smelly lotion on teenage females, even if it wasn't factually based.

It was in High School that I first suffered my major disappointments with writing. Every year I would submit what I felt was my best work to the school literary magazine and each year I was told by the presiding faculty member that while they had felt my entry was very well written, the student members of the magazine staff had felt it was too dark. This was probably true of a lot of my writing during that time. My parents were getting a divorce and I, like most High School students, felt utterly alone. Part of me wants to say that I never got into the literary magazine but another part of my memory wants to believe that I finally made it during my senior year.

Another huge devastation for me was all the attention I got in my creative writing classes. People would ask me for suggestions on plot or ask me to read over their stories and give them my honest opinion. It almost felt like being some kind of quasi-celebrity. It turns out that at this particular time of my life I just wasn't ready for that kind of attention. I stopped writing for me and started writing for everyone else. As soon as I wrote something I would rush to show it to someone, devouring their praises in my greed. I honestly believe this was a turning point in my writing development, I stopped trying to expand my writing ability because I began to feel like I already knew so much. There comes a time when consistent rejection and consistent praise start to intersect in a young writer's mind. One day it became impossible to separate the two emotions and the first real form of writer's block set in.

All of this boils down to the question of why writers write in the first place when it can be so hard on them emotionally. Well? What drives you to write? For me, in recent years, it has been a very underlying feeling somewhere deep inside of me. I've mentioned before that I have an overwhelming desire to create. Writing allows me to do just that. Even if I never show a single person what I've written, there is a certain form of release that comes from writing.

In all honesty, it could be months before I start to see regular visitors to this blog. Why even bother? It's simple really, I don't have much of a choice. It's a decision ingrained into who I am, and if by writing this blog today I can help another writer later down the road then it was all worth it!

If you happen to come across this post please take time to share your comments on why you write. I would love to hear from you.

Writing Exercise:

Today we'll do something a little different. Write about the first thing that comes to your mind after reading the following word:



Jim Murdoch said...

Okay, pat answer first: I write because I cannot not write. Why can I not not write is another thing completely. Suffice to say that my natural response to life is to write about it. Some people site on their arses and watch TV and never think much about it. I can't do that.

Why do I write badly? I did for many years. Very badly. The main reason was I hadn't found my voice, a way of expressing myself where the end product made some kind of sense to me. I still write badly but it's a different kind of badly. Basically I've been writing the same half-dozen poems all my life. Every time I get a bit closer to making sense out of what's in my head but it's never perfect.

It's something like Grand in Camus' novel The Plague writing and rewriting the opening sentence to his novel because he believes until he can get in right he can't move on with the book.

hope said...

It's funny...I know EXACTLY why I write until you asked me to put it into words. That may be the world's most ironic oxymoron. :)

I write because... I can. Not in a stuffy I-know-better-than-you-peons manner...after all, I usually feel like the peon. Writing's just always come easily to me and truthfully, I never think about it until someone says, "You write for fun?" as if I have some type of communicable disease.

I enjoy being creative, although some will argue that those who write are trying to create a world in which they alone are allowed to play God. Actually, it's the one place I get to finish an entire sentence without being interrupted. :)