Friday, September 18, 2009

Why We Write

I've been writing for quite some time now. Ever since my 6th grade teacher praised me for my very first "novel", called Journey to Cowland (though it's possible that I misspelled "Journey"), I've found a great deal of pleasure showing off my active imagination. Art class was always my favorite in grade school, because it was the only class where I was regularly free to express myself creatively.

Now that I'm into adulthood (far further into adulthood than I care to admit to myself), I still look for new creative outlets where I can. I still like to paint and draw and work with clay, though my skill with each is extremely limited. I also have a recurring itch to learn to play a musical instrument, though I've consistently find I lack a certain discipline to make much headway (along with a bit of a tin ear). My favorite toy as a kid was Legos, and I still have a weakness for building plastic brick wonders with my surviving collection, and my room is decorated with various lumpy ceramic knick knacks and cartoonish pictures I've made over the years. This, along with a host of video cassettes and DVD's of movies I've helped make with friends, from humiliating productions as a gawky teen with dumb jokes, to a still-pretty gawky young man with somewhat more sophisticated humor.

Yet still, with all of the creative avenues available to my restless imagination, I always seemed to come back to writing. I often wonder what it is that continues to draw me to writing novels (along with the occasional short story) rather than finding other medians to express myself. I wonder if it's the same impulse that attracts every writer to it, or if it's something different for everyone. Whatever it might be, I think it's very important for anyone who is or wants to be a writer to know why it is that they write.

For me at least, the compulsion to write comes from an intense desire, even a need, to tell a story. I suppose it's possible that I selected prose writing over poetry, painting, and the other expressive arts because fiction writing is the method which I've expressed the greatest aptitude, and as they always tell you, you should play to your own strengths. Being a shy, introverted kid through most of my childhood and teenage years, I had lots of time to myself, and I often spent that time daydreaming and creating characters and worlds to escape to whenever I felt burdened by the perils of everyday life.

That need for escapism eventually led me to be attracted to books, and later to forming my own ideas into complete stories. By the time I started my novel, The Other Side of the Gate (available on Barnes &!), I never questioned that novel writing was my favorite and most effective means of expressing myself.

For me, it isn't just a desire to tell stories, but it's also the need to find a story that I think is worth telling. Every time I start a new writing project, I will ask myself, "what makes this story worth hearing above all others?" Is there a more interesting story within this tale - another character, another subplot that overshadows the one I'm trying to tell? If so, why aren't I writing that one instead?

Usually though, I'm right on target with the story that interests me the most. It's the tweaking and molding the plot and the characters that's the fun part. That and the actual writing. When I've finished that really good scene in the wee hours of the morning, and I just have to go back and reread it again before bed, just for fun ... that's what it's all about. That's why I write.

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