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?

Pie in the sky


“In order to make an apple pie from scratch,
you must first create the universe.” 
Carl Sagan

Oh well, is that all?  As if buying the apples and sugar and pie crust and kinda mixing them together and baking for awhile wasn’t hard enough. 

I guess it’s obvious I’m not the cook in my circle.  My contribution to the family cookbook was a recipe for pancakes that called for Swiss Miss cocoa mix in place of, you know, actual milk or other perishables.

Worldbuilding was a major part of writing and revising my first book.  I just wanted to tell a story (the apple pie in this analogy) but first I needed a universe with oxygen for heat source ignition, cell mitosis for vascular deciduous flora, and neural networking so somebody with a bigger brain than me could figure out how to make an apple pie.

So much of what goes into creating a story never gets on the page.  Did you know that most of what’s sold as cinnamon is actually cassia, a related but cheaper substitute plant? No one really cares about that; they just want a tasty pie.

What a lonely thing is that story, floating isolated in a universe of billions and billions of ideas.  (Can you hear Carl saying “billions and billions”?  I can.)  Hopefully there will be other stories to join it, to make a solar system of a series.

And great, now I have tangled my metaphors so that you’re left with the mental image of pies in space.  Sorry.


Maybe the metaphor works.  After all, everyone knows pies have an event horizon — the point at which you can’t go back and have to eat the whole thing.

Where do babies come from?

Cross-posted from Silk And Shadows
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Currently working on: Cover copy for SEDUCED
BY SHADOWS — Look, ma! It’s a book!
Mood: Obsessively perfectionist

Where do ideas come from?  If authors sometimes refer to their books as their children, for me, the answer to where ideas come from is as simple and boring as the 20-page picture book I read that was supposed to answer the perennial childhood question, Where do babies come from?  All I remember was the sentence: “The egg is no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.”  And it wasn’t really a large font size.

Scientifically unverified reasons it’s likely my “ideas” are actually just eggs:

  • It seems they come from somewhere inside me
  • They start out small and unformed and more than a little alien-like
  • I break a lot of them in the course of half-baking them
  • My job is to hatch them, raise them up and let them fly

Now that I review my list, my ideas are really less like children and more like chickens. 

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