I’m asked this question a lot, “Why writing?”
I was fifteen when I knew I had to be a writer. There was no other choice for me. Other than my tall and lanky boyfriend at the time, I really didn’t think much about anything else.
I felt, as I feel now, compelled to imagine and create.
I feel compelled to watch and listen to the stories in my head.
I feel compelled to hash out ruinous emotions like despair and loneliness, combine them with humor and sunshine, and write the whole thing down.
It’s not something I can stop. Even when I finish a novel, within four days, I start to feel unsettled, unhappy, and edgy. Cranky, too. I feel lost. I have no idea what to do with my time. I have no idea what to do, in general.
There are only so many lunches I can go on with my fun girlfriends and I really hate shopping. Cleaning my house has no attraction at all and I don’t like to cook or bake. I am totally undomesticated.
I have to start creating the next story because I don’t know what else to think about and it is calling to me.
Had I not become a writer years ago, I believe I would have lived with a low – level, if not a high – level, of depression for the rest of my life.
Would I have given up?
But I will say those (many) early rejections were very, very hard, and relentless.
Only a compulsive fool would have kept writing after all that.
Meet the compulsive fool.
I don’t know why certain people feel compelled to do certain types of work, but I get it. Some people have to paint. Others have to play the violin. Some have to invent and some have to build. Some have to heal others or put them in documentary films. Most are driven by an artistic spirit within, intellectual curiosity, or altruism.
It’s like they were born and directed to do this certain thing. On a scale of one to ten, they’re at the ten. They simply must do what they need to do.
I am close to several women writers who feel as I do – they HAVE to write.
I had this picture in my head, years ago, of writers being sort of half crazed. Absent minded. Maybe drunk. Raving. Emotional. Philosophical and intellectually deep. Troubled personal lives. Existential. I thought of them suffering, and scribbling out their suffering on paper, in blood if there was no pen available.
True image? Yes, I’m sure. A number of famous writers come to mind pretty damn quick.
But the women I know who write, the ones I’m closest to, are different than that. They have many characteristics in common: Love of words, writing, and story telling. Focus. Ambition. Vision. Dedication. Smart and deep. Emotional, but not too emotional, more controlled.
They work hard. They’ve been through some really hard personal stuff. They’re compassionate and unbendingly strong women. They’re like redwoods, if redwoods could type out a story on a keyboard. They’re dreamers, but they’re practical and they’ve definitely got a harder edge.
I think the reason why they have not indulged in the absent minded, drunken, raving, emotional idea we may have of writers is because they simply haven’t had time. They all have children. They have homes. They’re married/engaged. They’re dealing with their work and the sorts of problems that come up for all of us in life.
I’m sure my women writer friends would love to move, at least sometimes, to the Keys, drink rum and coke all day under a palm tree, and ogle sexy men, but they simply couldn’t fit it into their schedules. They’re too busy.
I get that, as a mother and wife, I get them.
We write around all of our other responsibilities and problems. But we do write.
I am currently brain storming about my next book. I can’t let go of it for very long. I take drives in the country down winding roads. I throw the story around in my head on my runs and walks. I stare into space a lot. I’m spinning ideas up and whirling them around. I went to the beach to think.
I’m alone a lot, often delving into the bleaker and blacker emotions of life, and I like it.
In the last week or so, coffee in hand, I’ve had the following odd images and thoughts: Films. Surprising ancestral line. Blue. Lingerie. Defeat. Breaking the law. Nursing home. Awkward. Silk. Birds. Judge.
The images will soon form a story around a troubled and trying character, who is not fully developed at all, but will be by the time I’m done with my eighth edit and have a grip on the theme.
I’ll have spent a lot of time crying while writing over the sad or victorious scenes, and when that book is done, in four days I’ll start to feel lost and aimless and I’ll start hammering out the next story.
Most of the time, I love to write, but it’s more than that.
I can’t not write. It’s part of who I am, part of who I knew I wanted to be, who I had to be, from the time I was fifteen.
That’s why I write.