Why We Write

Why do writers write? Anyone who has starred at a blank computer screen hating the blinking cursor has asked the question, “Why am I doing this?” I don’t know about you, but when the writing is going well, when the words are flowing, and my muse is in attendance, I feel invincible. Have you ever written something so powerful you can’t imagine it came from you? Of course, then there are the days when nothing flows. You try like hell to write even one sentence. Again, you wonder why you’re even trying.

Why does anyone write? Unlike performing brain surgery or fixing a car, anyone can pick up a pad and pen and create a poem or write a short story. And, despite the odds against attaining the desired results, many people do. We fill our journals and attempt to write our novels and take our writing classes. We read voraciously. We read about writing. We read the works of other writers. We ask ourselves, “How do they do it?”

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed writing and literature classes in high school. I became involved in radio broadcasting. I wrote for the school newspaper. Communications was my game. Unfortunately, when I hit age eighteen, I became involved in drugs and drinking. This was definitely an unfortunate development. I behaved badly, and ended up serving three years in a state prison. I was able to do some writing during my incarceration. I also took two years of college classes, earning an associates degree. I enjoyed the college-level writing courses.

When I’m not writing, I feel an awareness that something’s missing. If I go too long without writing, I become agitated and depressed.There’s something vital that’s not happening. A certain slow damage starts to occur. I can get away without writing for a while, but then I start to lose touch. I begin to drift. The longer I wait, the harder it is to get started again.

When I’m writing, especially if it’s going well, I’m experiencing life in two different dimensions at the same time: this world, which I am thoroughly enjoying now that I am sober and “present,” and the other world I am experiencing all by myself that no one knows about yet. It’s a wonderful place to be, this yet to be revealed world of words and characters and experiences. First drafts are very special. I write without stopping, not worrying about punctuation or spelling, just allowing the prose to flow.

When I’m writing fiction, I tend to forget who I am or where I am or where I come from. I am the other person or persons. I am the car they’re riding in. I am the cop that’s chasing them. I am the gun in his hand. I am the bullet he fires. I decide whether it hits anyone. I create the tension. I become everything in the story. I leave my body and experience something that is in the process of going from fantasy to truth. If I write honestly, in my own voice, I create something that will impact others as believable. That’s my goal. That’s why I write.

When the writing is going well — I’m not trying to sound cliched — I feel inspired by the Great Creator. I am well aware of the influence of God, who created all things, and who is there for every word I put down on paper or type into my laptop. During that time, it doesn’t matter what else is happening in my life. I can choose to include the external — let it effect my writing — or ignore it. When the writing is going bad, it is worse than no writing at all. It is terribly predictable and pedantic. It almost has a foul smell to it. It’s like the sewer drain is backed up. Nothing works. I have very little tolerance for things going wrong, and this causes work stoppage. If I stay stopped too long, however, I become blocked.

My first attempt at writing a novel was horrible. I had to throw it out. Some people would say I should have kept it, coming back to it later when perhaps I knew more. It was not good enough to ever bear my name, so I put it through the shredder. I also tried to oil paint once. My dad was good at it. He mesmerized me. It looked, well, not “easy” but doable. So I grabbed a blank canvas and started. It was atrocious. I put it in the garbage can. But my thought was at least I tried. You never know what you’re good at until you try.

I hope I can one day just start writing a novel or a short story and finish it. I’m good at writing for this blog. I am fairly consistent in my journal writing. I write Bible study lessons. But I want to be able to get lost in that “other” world, putting words together. Sentence upon sentence. Paragraph upon paragraph. Stream of consciousness that goes somewhere. What I have to remember is that ideas are fleeting. That great concept that comes while driving or in the middle of the night will not last. If I write something original on my laptop and it fails to save properly, I can never recreate it. The emotion was invested in the “first draft.” I have to write when it feels like I need to, or else I run the risk of losing that idea forever.

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