I’ve had a pretty rough week as a writer. I have quibbled over two projects I currently have in the works, and realized that I haven’t really done enough in the planning stage to continue. I have spent the past two days without a single word written and it’s killing me.
My problems are thus:
- The roman soldier historical novel that I’ve been wanting to write for over a decade is backed by tons of research, but I did the research so long ago that it is no longer that relevant for me and most of it has been forgotten. This means hitting the books again, and I need to find a couple of days where I can go to the local college library. I also need to thumb through my copy of Dr. G. R. Watson’s fantastic book The Roman Soldier: Aspects of Greek and Roman Life and figure out what all of my highlighting and notes mean after all these years. The problem is that I hit a breakthrough this week that would tie an event at the beginning with an event at the end of the novel that would cause the main character to have a very deep epiphany, and want desperately to see it happen.
- The science-fiction parable is the other WIP I have started, but like saying the wrong thing in front of a middle school bully it has forced me to think carefully about point of view and whether or not the action is moving at a pace that is acceptable in this current fiction market. I have fleshed out all of the principal characters, but some more are being created as we speak and I don’t want to populate the book with too many flat ones that never go anywhere. I have the book completely outlined, but more and more side plots rise up and my main fear is telling a story that becomes flat and lifeless. The novel has the potential to be one of those stories that are multi-layered and reveal little surprises along the way so that by the end we are not anywhere close to the setting where the book began and all along we have been in some place unimaginable. It will be a wild ride for a reader.
This week I have really been examining what it means to be a writer, mainly examining my motivation for sitting down at a blank screen and churning out word after word and creating basically something from nothing. I posted a quote today on Twitter and Facebook by Thomas Berger: “Why do writer’s write? Because it isn’t there.” This quote holds true for me because I don’t want to be just another writer writing a zombie apocalypse book or a vampire romance book. I want to write books that are unique and interesting, shop the market, find things that haven’t been done and do them.
But in this post-modern world, can anyone really write anything new? I say that we can. There are always stories to be told. People never get tired of seeing the hero succeed, the villain vanquished, the lovers fall in love and the plot twisted. I tend to write books based on what I’m reading at the moment, always the person who watches the very dramatic television show or reads the fiction novel and says “I would have ended it this way” or “What if this character were a villain instead?”.
The question is, dear reader, why do you write what you write? Have you ever stopped to consider this question? I think if you try to answer it then it will make you that much better at what you do. The point is to have a purpose. Mine is to somehow share the Gospel of Christ in everything I write, even if it is set in a far away imaginary universe, a post-apocalyptic earth, a first century Judea or a small town in Oklahoma.
Post below and reaffirm your purpose.
10 thoughts on “Why Do I Write?”
As a student, I have mostly written because I have been assigned to write: to synthesize material, to critique authors and their ideas, to summarize or creatively interpret others’ writing.
Blogging has opened me up to writing for myself, and not to fulfill an assignment. I write more and more because I have to, because I feel compelled to arrange words in aesthetic and meaningful ways that help me understand and express myself better.
But I also communicate for the sake of others, for helping them express something about themselves, too. I write to become a more authentic self, and to encounter others in relationships and communities where we can grow together.
I write because I can’t not. And yes, that’s a crummy sentence for a writer. Writing feeds my soul, clears my head, helps me solidify what’s important. I don’t write fiction anymore, so I guess I’m looking to connect, to help, to support. I, too, want to honor God with my words. I wrote a high school curriculum on character development that was taught county wide for a decade, so I believe I can communicate on some level. Currently, I write about being a caretaker for my aging parents and how God is using that to grow me up. 🙂
from The Dugout
I write to matter. Said another way, because I write, I matter. Writing — even a blog that exists only on the internet — lasts. It documents my existence. It will be here (or somewhere) when I’m gone.
Recently, my husband and I wrote our last will and testament. In it, I specified he needed to devote some of my estate to an editor who would be required to comb through my unpublished works on my computer and my blog and create a post-mortem book. Yet, I’m quite happy to be cremated and have my ashes thrown to the wind. My words will matter long after my body is gone, I contend.
I will answer your question, promise! But first, I too am often plagued with doubt. It’s easy to be with so much good writing out there that I think I’ll never be able to match that and produce something people enjoy reading and want to see more of. And for me, doubt leads to procrastination. Which leads to guilt, but that’s a different story. Recently though I’ve discovered a cheat! Short stories. They scratch the itch, but more importantly they alleviate some of the doubts – because I’m writing, because I’m honing my craft. Also, I’ve found they are a good way to flesh out a side character. One of my (far too) long term projects is a steam(ish)punk/detective novel that starts in the middle, but I keep wanting flesh out the main characters background in it, but I also don’t want to do flashbacks. So I’ve started writing little self contained (but with hints of the future) short stories around events in their past. I may never use them, I may actually use them in the novel if my brain finds a way to fit them in, or they may get shared after the novel as a way to flesh things out for readers. Either way I’ve been writing and it’s been constructive.
Right, your question – I was going to write, ‘because it makes me happy (and frustrated and challenged)’, but that seemed like a cop out (albeit true). Thinking about it, I think it’s because many of my favourite memories are from reading. From sharing a book with my Dad and finding something to bond over. Then I look at my kids and hope they have that experience, not necessarily with what I produce, but that there is someone out there creating words in such an order that it gives them joy. Someday I hope I’m that someone, either for my own kids or someone else’s (even if they are grown up when they read it – I still share with my Dad). Turns out I’m more sentimental than I thought!
Great post and blog Richard. From what I’ve seen of your work and your passion for what you do, I’m sure this is just a blip.
Who’s this Richard fella??? Sorry Roger. Brain was somewhere else when I finished typing 😦
I write because I love creating worlds. Worlds that are all my own and that I get to be the “coach” for 🙂
I’ll admit (and agree with many others I’m sure) that writing is a frustrating art and the reward is seldom worth the effort. I write because i want to keep getting better and because I put so much time into already that I might as well keep going. Hard work eventually pays off, they say.
That’s not a very poetic or inspiring reason, but I envision a big blank empty nothing if I stop.
I feel the same way more often than I will admit. The joy is in seeing something completed and then the uphill climb to the completion of the next novel.
I really value the connections I’ve made on WordPress not just because I learn a lot from my peers but because I know others experience the same ups and downs. Solidarity, if you will.