I’ve started on my next novel. I’ve thought about several different ideas over the past year or two, but none of them seemed to work quite right. So I finally came back to the idea that I’ve had for years now but never felt ready to tackle. Being a writer, I want to write about everything that I’m experiencing. As soon as I have an idea, I want to pour it out into a story. But I’ve learned that it is better to go at it slowly. Because memories become riper and deeper and richer with time. As I grow and learn, I look back at my experiences with new perspectives. If they are too raw, too fresh, too new, then the story that comes out will be stilted and will have a sort of false or “off” feel to them. I’d really rather wait years and years until I know I’m ready to write the best story, but there isn’t time for that. Life has a sense of urgency. I can’t wait twenty years to write the words I think of today. For they won’t be there in twenty years, I might not be here in twenty years. I can’t wait for perfection because there is no perfection in this life.
I’m really enjoying having a new purpose for my writing. I don’t expect to get this book done for two to five years. I don’t have a deadline for it, I just need to start on it. And in case you’re wondering, I’m not really going to talk about it here. If you want to know about it, you can ask. I might tell you I’d rather not discuss it. Or I might give you a brief synopsis of it. Or launch into a thirty minute monologue on it. You never know, haha.
But this has made me consider why I write and what motivates me. Here are a few thoughts on it…
I write to know myself. Writing can be the most heart-wrenching thing to do. It is hard to explain why. It is like being interrogated by yourself. Though it is a place of refuge from the external world, if you really want to write well, you have to be honest, and that means facing all the things you’d rather forget or ignore. It means dredging up the painful memories, emotions, and thoughts you usually try to avoid. It means acknowledging who you really are and how you’ve become who you are. This isn’t always a pleasant or cheerful task, I can assure you. It is comforting, but at times can be more uncomfortable than anything in the “real” world. You sometimes discover things about yourself that you would have rather not known. You can’t keep up a white-washed charade if you’re trying to write; it won’t work.
I write to create. I just got done saying that writing can be a most miserable experience, but nothing can compare to the journey of creating a world within your head. Sometimes the world I’m creating seems far more real than the world around me. It is comforting to build this place of refuge, when I need to be in my quiet space, I have somewhere to go. And this world suddenly becomes more fascinating because I see it through my new world. I’m a sojourner between these two places, and my experiences in both will change the way I look at the other world. My interactions in this world will impact how I create my own world, and the world in my head is going to change how I think about this place.
I write to lose control. There generally comes a point when the story goes beyond you, when you are no longer in charge, when it is no longer about you but about getting this story out there. It is at this point you can’t decide how you’d like your characters to behave, it is happens and you know that’s the way it is going to be. It is at this point you can’t turn back. You can’t decide to give up on writing. Because it isn’t about you. It is about a story. And that story must be told. Maybe not right now. Maybe it will take years and years to get it out, but that story will be written even if you wish with all your heart that you could abandon the whole idea of writing. It is inconvenient, and sometimes terrifying when this happens, but it is worth it. The feeling of being caught up in something bigger than your story is incredibly rewarding.
I write because I must. Over the past few years I’ve gone a few months, or maybe at the most, a year, without writing anything significant. But that won’t last. I know it won’t last. I know it means I’m just living and experiencing so that someday I can come back to my storehouse of ideas. That’s just the way it goes for me. I’ll find the words returning to me, one day all of a sudden I’ll have a story in my head. And nothing is so important as getting that written down and captured. For the most part, I don’t choose how it goes, I don’t decide when the words come into my head for the scene I’ve been struggling with for weeks. I don’t choose when or how I discover the link in my plot that I’ve been searching for. As I’ve mentioned before, writing isn’t something you do in your spare time, if I wanted a “hobby” like that, I’d knit. On the contrary, being a writer means everything is so insanely unpredictable. You will never know when the right words will find their way into your head, when the mundane conversation becomes the inspiration for a section of dialogue, when a metaphor, image, or scene will be seared into your imagination, when the most unexpected incongruous situation will inexorably call you to record it. It isn’t something you can conveniently schedule. It just happens. That’s the fun of being a writer 🙂