I am a regular reader of writer Chuck Wendig’s blog: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ It is often irreverent, always funny and it uses a lot of words you don’t want your boss reading over your shoulder, even if you have worked in a place where those sorts of words fly about with regularity. Try working in a newsroom and being stationed next to the sports department and you’ll know what I mean. But that is not why I am here today.
No, I and others have been challenged by Wendig to write an essay on why we write.
I had to think about that for a few days, and I’ve narrowed it down to three words: Compulsion, satisfaction and skill. I tried to make them alliterations, something I never would have been allowed to do in the newspaper business, but I no longer work for the paper, so I can call them what I wish. (Runs off to Internet to find a S word for compulsion.) All right. Not compulsion, but necessity. Has a good S sound in it, fulfilling my compulsion to use an alliteration.
So, necessity, satisfaction and skill. Got the words in place – you know the old essay format from school, right? The opening with three ideas, or in this case, words, paragraphs to explain the three ideas and a summary ending – here goes something.
Ever since I can remember, it has been a necessity to write. Notes in class, papers in school, short stories to entertain myself, I’ve done it all. I worked for a newspaper for 21 years. I was a news assistant, a community page editor and a page designer. I was never an actual “reporter,” but that does not mean I didn’t write. I couldn’t help myself. I wrote book reviews, small pieces about community organizations and a few features. It wasn’t just the atmosphere, it was the chance to write what I pleased. I got to write as I was compelled to say something.
Along the way I started participating in National Novel Writing Month and I still write daily for a RPG I have been involved in since 2003. I have written Jane Austen fan fiction. I write historical romance, often with a paranormal twist. Why? Because it’s all inside me and it has to come out.
I find writing very satisfying, as well. When it has to come out, I mostly use pen and paper first. They are portable, I can pull them out and scribble anywhere, and I love the feel of the pen in my hand and paper underneath. I had a hard time dealing with my son when he was in school, because he has dysgraphia, the inability to get what is in his head down on paper. Once I realized it was not because he was slow, but that his mind was too fast to keep up with the pen, I got him started writing fan fiction. On paper. He became quite good at it, and he found that by writing something that satisfied him, his mind slowed and his hand got faster. And I could pass on one of the reasons I write – satisfaction with not only the physical act of writing, but the satisfaction of completing a project. It has helped me be less of a procrastinator, having a goal as well as a compulsion. I haven’t always won NaNoWriMo every year, but I always participate. And I am always satisfied that I have exorcised some of my writing demons in the process.
When I was in high school, my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wished to be a fiction writer. He laughed and steered me towards journalism, said no one ever made a career out of writing stories. This was in the 1970s, so I have no idea where he got that idea, as there have been plenty of authors out there for centuries, but I was a dumb freshman and what did I know? I took two years of journalism, in the tenth grade because of the guidance counselor and in my senior year to fill in my class schedule. Hated it. Got a journalism scholarship to community college. I turned it down and my mother cried. I said I would never work for a newspaper. Never say never. I earned an associate degree in library science, but I got a job as a news assistant based on my ability to put two sentences together, spell correctly and use good grammar. I learned new things, such as how to write obituaries, edit personal columns and write headlines. I had to write captions under photos. I was then introduced to the world of Austen fan fiction. I started writing a story, and a wonderful group of women, all of whom I still call friends today, took me in hand, offered advice, agreed to edit my work. Writing education can come from anywhere, I have discovered. Reading blogs and books on writing. Taking advice from the Nano pep talks. Getting a partner and writing a story together. Reading, reading, reading your favorite authors, even if they are from other genres. Making friends in the writing community has not only sharpened my skills, but broadened my travel horizons, because I have personally met most of my writer friends.
In conclusion, I have to say that I have been a successful writer, even if I have only put my stories online for people to read at no charge. That is about to change, but again, an essay for another day. I have taken my compulsion, my necessity for writing, through stories, RPGs and other work and have made it personally satisfying for myself just by participating in the act of plotting and developing characters. I have honed my skills so that when I make the final leap to actually asking people to pay for what I write, I will be ready to give them something they will enjoy reading.