Why write?

Why write?

Last week, Sandra’s post, Get Real – made me start thinking about why I want to write. Why do I feel the need to tell stories?

If I hate it (at times), I’m not making any money doing it, it complicates my life, and it’s hard – why do I write? Not writing would simplify my life. I would no longer need to closet myself in my office and beat my head against the wall as I stare at a blank screen. I wouldn’t have to worry about taking a ‘good start’ and using my critique partners suggestions to make it a ‘great start’. I could throw out Strunk & White and never worry about a comma again.

There are writers who earn enough to support themselves and their families with writing. For them the answer is more obvious – they write to pay the bills. But the vast majority don’t earn enough to pay a monthly mortgage, let alone support the family. And what about the large number of writers who have never published anything?

For most, writing takes the time and commitment of a second job, without creating significant (or any!) income. In fact, it often creates expenses as we take classes, join writing groups, attend workshops and conferences and invest in the tools of our trade. WHY? What is it about this craft that brings us back to the keyboard, time and time again? To say a writer writes because they simply can’t not write is not true. We can stop. In fact, most of the writers I know have stopped writing for significant lengths of time.

Seriously, if I stop writing, who would care? I would have more time to read and watch television and create those scrapbooks I’ve been planning for thirty-something years. I would have more time to spend with family and friends. I could walk away from the guilt that plagues me when I’m not writing.

Who would miss the stories I haven’t told? ME! I would miss it. And, like Sandra said last week, I’m optimistic (or is it arrogant) enough to believe that someday I will have readers who not only enjoy my stories, but are willing to pay me money for the privilege of reading those stories. Do I think I will ever support myself with my writing? Highly unlikely!

My writing mentor and teacher, BK Reeves, often referred to a writer’s brain. That extra thing, that unique wiring, which makes a writer view the world a little different than someone without a writer’s brain. She told a story about how her writer’s brain helped her cope with her husband’s funeral, because as she entered the church for his funeral service, overwhelmed by grief and uncertain how she could take another step, her writer’s brain detached itself from the reality of the moment and she was able to think, okay, if I’m writing about a widow, this is how she feels. This is what she is thinking. This is how it looks.

I don’t believe that everyone born with a writer’s brain will necessarily write – but I do believe that everyone who writes has a writer’s brain. Is it a curse or a blessing? For me, and I suspect for a lot of writers, it is both!

Terri Rich

Terri Richison (writing as Terri Rich) lives in Clear Lake City, TX with her husband and a giant Great Dane (giant even by Great Dane standards). She is working on self-publishing women’s fiction and avoiding getting a pie in the face if she doesn’t produce pages for every critique session! PIES OR PAGES! Terri started telling stories almost as soon as she could talk – she learned everything she needed to know about storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. Craft however, is something she is still learning – those damn commas give me nightmares!

8 thoughts on “Why write?

  1. The Little Engine That Could comes to mind. Sometimes you have to chug, chug, chug up that steep seemingly insurmountable hills in order to up your word count. Sometimes your wheels clack, clack, clack over the smooth flatlands. But no matter. When it all comes together, there just ain’t nothing like it. At least for those of us born with Writer’s Brains!

    1. My Little Engine That Could seems to be doing a lot of chug, chug, chugging – looking forward to some clack, clack, clacking! BUT, I agree, when it comes together, there just ain’t nothing like it!

  2. I tried not writing for several years for all the usual excuses–not enough time, too tired after working all day (not to mention the 60 mile each way commute). There is always this little voice in my head (it sounds an awful lot like BK) telling me I can’t ignore my Writer’s Brain forever). So I am once again trying to get myself back on track. This Blog helps remind me that I am not the only one that struggles with it. Thanks to all of you for the inspiration!

    1. Kay, I’m thrilled to hear that you are writing again. I suspect there a lot of us that hear BK cheering us on (or is it nagging us?) Either way, glad to hear you are writing and honored that our blog might be helping to inspire you!

  3. Beautifully said, Terri.

    I suspect every creative endeavor starts with that spark inside which needs to fire — or else consume its bearer! What I love about creativity is that the spark can morph from writing to painting, or from painting to music, or from music to sculpture or scrapbooking or… whatever, and so on.

    Would I survive if I hadn’t started writing my Promise House novellas? Of course! But these novellas are helping me work something out in my life — an emotional truth, a different way of seeing the world — that might have taken me much, much longer to realize without the steady practice of scene building, character growth, plotting to the dark moment, and pacing.

    In that regard, I definitely would have missed having them, just as I now miss writing the urban fantasy (which I dug out and read the other day) and the romanticas. These are offspring, too, and while they will never bring the intense joy that children would be, they’ve also proven themselves cheaper to grow and easier to clean up after…

    1. Sandra, ah, the firing spark! That damn spark that keeps us coming back and fanning that spark into an inferno! For the record, I would have missed your Promise House novellas, also. Because, while they are therapeutic for you – they are for me, as well. In each of your stories, I find pieces of my family. People often talk about how much simpler life was in the ’50s – your novellas remind us that it wasn’t all Norman Rockwell – there was sexism and racism and domestic violence and for women making their own way in the world, it was much more difficult than what similar women face in today’s world. So, thank you. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  4. Writing keeps me sane. When I am facing life’s struggles, I analyze not only my reaction but the action of the “villain.” I find value in this insight and transfer it to some of my characters’ motivation for creating havoc. I also allow some of the “victims” to respond much more wisely than I have at times, giving my ego a “second chance” to respond appropriately to some past persecution. In doing this, I find peace and a creative distraction from self-pity. Simply put, life’s struggles present excellent resources for writing, and writing offers effective therapy for life’s struggles.

    1. Kathy, I so agree – writing is much cheaper than therapy! And one of the coolest things about writing is that our heroines ALWAYS have the perfect come back! Those things we WISH we’d thought of at the time, not two hours later. As for the villains – it is so great to get revenge, even if it is in a make believe world that we create. I have a button that reads, “if you piss me off, I might kill you in my next novel”. While I haven’t actually used a book to kill someone that pissed me off, my life is fodder for my novels, too. Lots of my ‘real life’ leaks into the stories I tell.

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