Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Do I Write?

People love to talk to writers. I don't know why that is, but they do. Many are, I'm sure, trying to get published themselves and want advice. Others like the aura and mystique of a writer. They stand around in awe. While this is flattering, it's somewhat uncomfortable. Most of the writers I've met are somewhat shy and reserved. We may not come across that way when among others of our breed, but there is the tendency to want to shrink away from public acclaim.
Inevitably, when people find out you're a writer, they ask several uncomfortable questions. At least they are uncomfortable for me, because I don't have good answers for them yet. The first question I usually am asked is, "How do you think of the stories?"
After a brief 'duh' moment, I try to stammer something out, but it's vastly inaccurate and not very satisfying for them or me. Being a strong believer in the Greek concept of the Muse, I can't explain that the ideas and words possess me briefly, flow from my fingers to the keyboard and park themselves on the page without my conscious effort. How do you explain that concept to someone who has never experienced it? Not only that, if you say the word "possessed" you're either going to have an exorcist or the men in little white coats descend on you in the wee, small hours of the night.
I generally say something stupid like, "Oh, I don't know. They just come to me." How blah is that? There is a facial change in those around me when I say that. They were waiting for pearls of wisdom and I just handed them cold oatmeal. YUCK!
Another uncomfortable question and, if possible, more difficult to answer is "Why did you become a writer?" The 'duh' moment is longer on this one because I really have to think about it. Why did I become a writer?
Because from the moment I could talk, stories came to my mind? Because I feel this driving compulsion to put word to paper? Or is it because there are stories there that must be told? Characters create themselves demanding to speak! I, as the instrument, must tell as many of their stories as I can in one lifetime or they can never live, love, resolve their inner conflicts. They need me as much as I need them.
I look back on my life and realize I was always creating stories. When I was three, my older sister started kindergarten. Never having been on my own, I created an imaginary friend, Snowy Green. He and I went to Rainbow School and played games, sang songs and painted pictures with finger paint. I told ripping yarns to my mother about all the amazing things we did at Rainbow School and how we spent our day. I can't remember any of them now, but I know that was my first foray into the world of storytelling.
Once I got into high school, under the strict tutelage of a wonderfully patient teacher, Mr. Ray Frakes, I learned the importance of expressing myself well. He took my lack of style and rudimentary mechanics well in hand, honing my skill. Later, in college, I used to write plays and short stories. This further fed my love and desire to write.
I set aside the writing when I was a young mother. I didn't have the time, but the urge to be creative was still there. It wasn't until my youngest son started kindergarten that I was able to devote more time to writing. From then on, it became a full time passion. I write every free moment. The number of novels, essays and short stories I've got on file boggles my mind. The millions of words I've combined into a coherent whole amazes me. There are still tales to be told, characters to meet, conflicts to resolve. I could spend the rest of my life writing and never tell them all.
Where do the ideas come from? I don't know. They're out there. Some are meant for me to chronicle, others are not. I read the books my friends have written and think, "That's so good! I could never have written that!" It wasn't my story to tell, it belonged to them. However, once the story is published, it belongs to us all.
How selfish would the Brontë sisters have been if they hadn't shared "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre"? What would we do without Daphne du Mauier's "Rebecca"? And where would the world be without A.A. Milne's "House at Pooh Corner" or J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit?" The stories these authors told have enriched our lives, opening new worlds for readers to explore.
My questions for you are some you may encounter when amongst the "Madding Crowd". Why do you write? How do you think of your stories? Where do your ideas come from? What compels or inspires you to write? What author most inspired your imagination? If you can answer these for yourself, then answering them for others will be easy and you can avoid that uncomfortable 'duh' moment.

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