Why Write?

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Why do you write? Ask me and I can instantly compose some convoluted answer that sounds spot on. I like to say that writing is like scratching an itch. And for me, the itch is deep inside my brainpan. Imagine the kind of itch where you might have sunburned your back and then some coarse sand makes its way down your shirt. You may go into twisting convulsions trying to reach that itch, just to scratch it and relieve the piercing irritation. Now the itch is inside your brain and the only way to ease yourself is to write.
I like to say that. Maybe it’s true. But if it isn’t, the reason will suffice to answer most people’s questions.
The reality of why I write is not the picture of a brooding artist who must create or perish. The true picture is one of a bitter little boy playing with toys, creating worlds of his own because he feels that he had no place in the outside world.
Circumstances beyond my control fell into place when I was young. The result was a withdrawn kid who had very few friends. When I was eight years old I moved from a culture where I was secure and accepted to one where I wasn’t. I began to associate any kind of change or anything unknown to me as a source of anxiety. So I retreated into worlds I created where I was in control. It began with toy cars and spaceships where I made up stories. In addition, I told myself stories at night after bedtime that my toys couldn’t do justice as props. Eventually I was writing those stories down in spiral bound notebooks.
In school I was a poor student. Math frustrated me. I couldn’t spell and my handwriting was atrocious so I was labeled bad at English also. Once in the 4th or 5th grade I wrote a story about a little penguin that stowed away on a ship and ended up living with a little boy somewhere in the western hemisphere. I had been inspired by a stuffed penguin I slept with. The story was better than anything my teacher had seen, but I was forced to re-write it until it was neat and free of spelling errors. I thought perhaps I didn’t want to be a writer anymore and would just fly a spaceship instead.
My mom told me astronauts had to be good at math. I didn’t want to be an astronaut. I wanted to fly a spaceship. There’s a difference. So that is what most of my stories were about. I didn’t give up writing.
I wrote off and on for most of my young adult life. It wasn’t until I started seriously studying the craft that I really became passionate about it.
I never thought I was much good. I didn’t know there were a small number of writers who made a comfortable living at it. I wrote because I loved to write.
If you’re going to write, make that your reason. Distracting yourself with thoughts of fame, money and book signings won’t get a single sentence down. And if you want to be rich, then get a job where there’s a steady paycheck. I put several hundred hours into writing my latest novel. That will result in less than minimum wage if I sell anything at all.
But if I can make myself happy by sitting at the computer at the same time of day every day and spending an hour or so writing, then I’ve found something that other’s still seek.
Ask yourself why you write. Take a week or so to brainstorm and journal your ideas. When you’ve got something clear, like a purpose for it all, drop me a line here and tell me what you’ve learned about yourself. I hope this exercise will be a landmark epiphany for you.
Until next week then, good sentences.

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