This past week someone in one of the writer’s groups I belong to posted a short message about losing sight of why he writes. Naturally, he’d taken time to examine this and had come back to his reasons and encouraged all of us to remember ours as well. It was a lovely little post that took root in the back of my brain, but it wouldn’t sprout until a few days later.
Next, my husband asked me a question that absolutely stunned me. I was sprawled out on the couch this weekend with my laptop, color coded pens, note cards, paper, etc. He walked over, kissed me on the top of my head and said, “Do you like doing this?” I can only imagine the dumbfounded look on my face, but it must have been a doozy because he immediately clarified. “I mean, you work so hard at this. Do you really enjoy it? Or is there another reason?”
I was floored. I mean, how could he not know? He lives with me, for crying out loud. He knows me better than I know myself most days. How could he not know how much I love writing? And more than that, why I love it so much. Wasn’t it obvious?
That got me thinking. Maybe my reasons weren’t good enough. Maybe there was something bigger that I was missing. Were my personal reasons lacking? Not noble enough? How could they not be obvious to everyone around me? Would successful writers have reasons that the rest of the world would understand, that I just wasn’t able to voice yet?
Of course, I Googled. And here’s what I found…
Judy Blume, children’s writer extraordinaire, has this to say about why she writes, “Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our being.”
For me, I suppose this is true. There’s nothing much like the spark of a story that grabs you and won’t let go. Trying not to write is like a wrestling match that, for me, leads to a state of mind very similar to depression. My family would say I’m just plain grumpy when I don’t write. I have no idea what they’re talking about…
I see truth for myself in what Judy Blume describes, but it’s not necessarily the essence of why I write. Next up on Google was Stephen King, so I got a little excited. I mean, he writes some strange stuff. Surely there’s a deeper reason he does what he does.
Sure enough, he’s been quoted as saying that, for him, writing is about, “enriching the lives of those that will read your work, and enriching your own life as well.” That sounds nice enough, but it’s his second quote on why he writes that struck a chord with me. “It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
This is getting so much closer to why I think I take the time to do what I do. My last search included a writer I admire so much. He weaves words and ideas together in a way that never fails to make me gasp a bit, and I wasn’t disappointed this time either.
Neil Gaiman had this to say about why he writes, “The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”
And there it is. When the story grabs a hold of me and won’t let go, there’s a moment where it ignites in my mind and my fingers can barely keep up with it as I try to get it on the page. It’s truly, “magical and wonderful and strange.” And it makes me happy.
I mean blissfully, wonderfully, magically happy. The best way I can describe it is the feeling you get when you’re falling in love. That goofy look that comes across your face and you’re nearly walking into walls and giggling for no reason at all? That’s totally me when I’m writing. It’s a rush that I crave when I’ve been away from it too long and it truly makes me sad and depressed and grumpy when I can’t get back to it fast enough.
Do I want to make people think with my writing? Absolutely. Do I want to help them see the world through another perspective? Of course. Would I like it if people were talking about my books all around the world? Absolutely. But my ultimate reason is quite simple and horribly selfish: I write because it makes me happy.