Why I Write

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Enjoying being done (again) with revisions on sci fi rom novella
Mood: Self-congratulatory

Every once and awhile I get contemplative. It usually happens when I’m between deadlines, which is yet another reason why deadlines are good things. I also have a mean self-help streak which I try not to indulge too often because I don’t think it’s helpful, to myself or anybody else. I’m sorry to say these two bad habits have come together in a brutal session of navel gazing lately.

Why do I write?

I’ve been asking myself this ever since I attended a writing workshop years ago where the presenter told us to answer this question and I had to cheat off the writers next to me. And then, only a few days later, I read a writing craft book that demanded an answer to the question too, and I decided the universe was making fun of me and even the answers I stole weren’t good enough.

When forced into a corner, my usual answers to the “Why do I write?” question are:

  • Money and fame
  • Casual dress code
  • Free books (cuz I write ‘em myself)

You see why I’m not exactly winning self-help prizes with these answers.

But recently, in the midst of wrestling with this question once again (I don’t even know why it’s important! I just remember that the workshop and the book both talked about it so it must be important) I was listening to some self-help podcasts (somebody stop me!) and heard the question posited a slightly different way. Instead of asking “Why do you _____?” the question was this:

“What do you get out of doing ______ that reinforces the desire to continue?”

Yes, yes, I realize this is just a slightly warmer, fuzzier wording of operant conditioning, but I’m going with it for a moment.

What do I get out of writing? What is it about writing that fulfills something in me?

And after mulling it over on a  few dog walks, I decided that, for me, it’s about creating something out of nothing. There’s something amazing about taking words that have no measurable atomic density, no visible wavelength, no smell even, and creating…whatever — and by amaze, I mean “a maze” where there is a sense of mystery and discovery and adventure and even the danger of getting lost. Storytelling requires nothing but an idea, really, and from there you build a world that goes on to live in other people’s minds.

Which I guess is a slightly warmer, fuzzier way of saying: “Why do I write?”

  • Delusions of godlinghood

Still, I like the idea of the question “What do I get out of doing ______?” I’ve been applying it to my characters, my unsuspecting friends with questionable love lives, my snack choices, my moments of procrastination, vacuuming.

Is this helping my writing in any way? Not that I’ve noticed, to be honest. Although I have discovered I’m not particularly fulfilled by a clean house and I don’t even need a deadline to justify the impromptu dog-hair carpet under my desk.

I knew this contemplative self-helping wasn’t good for me. Do you have a force you know motivates you, for good or ill? Do you try to encourage or fight it? Have you had any luck?

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