Why I Write

why i writeLet’s see what this week’s flash fiction challenge is, I think as I open my email. Chuck Wendig’s charge is this: write an essay about why you write.

Huh.

Okay.

So I wasn’t going to write this one. I’ve sort of answered this question in author interviews and in casual conversation. What more can I have to say?

Then a twitter hashtag event happened tonight – #TenThingsToSayToAWriter

Writers from everywhere offered their tweets on the topic, everything from “we doubled your advance” to “can I get you more coffee/wine” to “I loved your book and wrote a review!” At the time I write this, the tag is still trending, so many, many thoughts are going out to cyberspace.

This is one of mine that received a respectable amount of attention:

writer tweet

A high school student who beta reads my YA stuff responded, resulting in this thread:

M thread

Can’t beat that, right?

I started writing because I had some characters in my head and I figured out what their story should be. I didn’t start because I thought I would be brilliant or gifted or a best seller. I certainly didn’t start with the idea that it would make me rich and famous. I started because I just wanted to tell the story. I could have left it at that, written out a single book or two or three and felt pretty good about myself. Lots of people say they want to write a book. I did it. And I didn’t worry too much about quality, because it wasn’t like I was striving to create the next Great American Novel.

I just wanted to tell my story.

Eventually, however, I decided my story might be good enough for other people to read. I shared it with trusted friends, and it was well received. I felt pretty good about the prospects of steering towards a writing career.

It wasn’t until I joined my critique group that I realized how un-brilliant and un-gifted my prose was. So I received criticism. A lot of it. I learned. And I applied what I learned. This is a process that will never cease.

Now, I write for a different reason than when I started. Sure, I still like to tell stories. I still have characters in my head, and I want to share them with whoever wants to read them. But I’ve become more cognizant of telling my story in the most effective way possible.

I don’t want my writing to stand in the way of the story. I leave openings in my descriptions for readers to fill with their own backgrounds. I try to make my dialogue realistic and engaging. I like writing stories that, cliche as it may be, readers can’t put down.

I write because I love that my stories keep readers up past their bedtimes. I love that they think of the characters as if they’re real people. And you can’t beat hearing “I was talking to so-and-so about your book.”

In short, I write because it’s how I can make an impact.

It’s not so different from why I started teaching thirteen years ago.

I want to do something that matters, even if it’s only for one person and for a brief time. That’s good enough.

8 thoughts on “Why I Write

  1. Pingback: Why I Write “Those” Characters | Allison Maruska

  2. It’s a good reason to write. I totally relate to the moment when you glimpse all that you don’t know about your craft, and decide you’ll rise to the challenge. I wrote seven novels before I had a clue. The revision has been intimidating, but I’m working my way through. Beta swaps have been my salvation here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love, love, love making people laugh. Also, something I didn’t know – I love making them cry. In stories, anyway. And I found this out quite by accident. (I wrote posts in the mornings and a lot of my wife’s friends read the before heading off to work I got a bunch of calls later in the day saying I’d made them all cry and ruin their makeup. That sounded really cool, in a strange way. My goal became to ruin their makeup at least once a week.) It’s the opposite side of the same coin, laughing and crying is, reaching their emotional core enough to make it physically manifest itself. And as Spielberg said, when you can make them laugh and cry, you can play them like a piano. So now it’s piano lessons. I got people to laugh – a LOT – in my most recent book. Maybe the next one will make them cry, too, but it’s going to be tough to get them on the edge of their seats and keep them there. I love making readers fall in love with a character, and then messing with that character so that the reader is saying NO! and then finally YES!

    It’s probably a sadistic streak I have hidden somewhere. Writing keeps the streets safe – from me,

    Liked by 2 people

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