Why does one keep writing?
Given that the chances of “success” — in terms of readership, in terms of anyone in this huge world of so many words even finding ours at all, and certainly in terms of economic payoff — are, essentially, infinitesimal . . . .
Why do we do it?
The answers are probably different for everyone who does it.
Here are mine.
1. Because I love hanging out with my characters.
Let’s face it: we humans can be irritating as hell.
Even the people we love (and sometimes especially those) can bug the crap out of us.
Characters are not like that.
Characters are endlessly interesting. And not irritating. And imaginary.
With them, you go to different worlds where things are not like they are in real life.
My characters do not freak out about the elections. My characters do not post things on Facebook that drive me nuts. My characters do not make appointments with me and flake out. My characters do not make me frustrated or sad on their behalves.
Because they are imaginary.
There is none of the crap that comes along with real life.
It’s a breath of fresh air to get to hang with people that you feel extreme affection for who don’t do all things that we humans do that make us such pains in the ass.
You know how you love some characters you read so much that they feel like they are your friends, even though they don’t actually exist on this Earth?
(You know you do. You know how that feels when you are reading a book you love.)
Writing about those characters?
2. Because I like finding out what my characters are saying and doing.
When I say I’m in the process of writing a new book, I get asked all the time whether I’ve “got it all plotted out” yet.
Like that’s a necessary first step.
Any time I’ve ever worked on a draft from that method . . . the draft sucked.
Like just putting someone . . . me, the characters, the eventual readers (if I’d put those shitty drafts out in public) through the paces.
I want to be surprised.
As one of my really, really good (as in, she’s a great writer) writer friends puts it, “How are the readers supposed to be surprised if you’re not surprised along the way?”
I don’t think most writers do this.
From the number of questions I get from other writers (interestingly, mostly dudes) about whether I’ve “got my plotting done yet,” I’m thinking not a lot of writers are willing to trust this process.
It’s the best way to go.
I do not want the responsibility of figuring it all out for all the characters. That feels too much like being a mom. I am old now and tired of being that kind of mom. I like being a grandma. “What would you like to do, kiddo?” That’s how it is with grandkids, and that’s how it is with my characters.
And it feels solid.
Love your characters so much that you trust them and you just want to write down what they tell you. As you go along is fine.
And I wish more of life was like this.
3. Because I am not the boss.
See number 2, above.
I just write down what whomever, from wherever, is telling me at the time.
4. Because I am the boss.
As in, I can do whatever the hell I want to do. And there is no one around who can, or has a stake in, telling me otherwise.
Oddly, when you are not “successful” in your writing, you get to have even more, “You are not the boss of me” ness in your writing. Because, when nothing has taken off, you have all the room in in the world to be as creative, maneuvering, nuts as you feel like being in your next go ’round.
Because you have absolutely nothing to lose.
5. Because I can’t NOT write.
This is it.
This is the main reason.
I can’t not.
I do it everywhere.
On Twitter. On Instagram. On Facebook. In novels. In blog posts. In morning pages. In journals I’ve kept since I was tiny.
Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.
It’s just something I do.
It’s how I see and process and share and love the world.
It’s like blood or foods or water.
It’s part of every day, and inside of me.
I can’t not.
No matter what else in life.
That has never changed.
And the more I let it be so, and follow whatever whichever “voices” are popping into my head, wanting to be written down and shared, the better each day is.