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 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!