Why do I write?
That’s a question often asked of writers. Of course, there are the stock answers, “I have stories to tell”, or “I’m compelled to by my nature.” There are few writers who don’t feel that way, myself included.
Being a writer is not good a way to become rich and famous. You’d be better off starting an instagram account if that is your goal. Of course, there are rich and famous writers but the numbers are not good. For every Stephen King, there are several thousand unknown scribes, toiling in obscurity.
I am one of them.
So, why do I write?
I’m not doing it for the money, as there isn’t any, at least coming my way and likewise, fame has proved to be equally elusive. Why do I tell stories and am compelled to tell them when I’m not sure who, if anyone, is reading them?
If you are one of the small group of excellent humans who do read what I write, I thank you. Reading someone’s work is a genuine gift. We all have a limited amount of time and if you have chosen to spend it with my words, I deeply appreciate it.
Of course, I have some old friends who I consider like family who do not read my work, despite it being delivered to their inboxes on a weekly basis. If I were a petty person, I would hold it over their heads. Maybe I do, but just a little bit.
Again, why write? No one is paying me to do so and there are no legions of fans demanding that I keep creating. I’m going to tell you a story. A true one and not an invention of my imagination.
A number of years ago, I was working in an office. To say that it was not stimulating would not do justice to the tedium that occurred on a daily basis. This job was so boring that when I was asked by strangers what my job was, I used to say that I worked for a company that ground up the souls of orphans to make objects that I assumed were used to beat orphans. While not in anyway true, it did convey the general malaise I felt about my job.
Why work there? A paycheck and health insurance, just like everyone else.
So while I was having my spirit worn away for forty hours a week, I started writing a screenplay. Of course many people write screenplays so that was not the remarkable thing. It made me happy.
Not just when I would come home and write it. Everyday, I woke up thinking about the characters, what they were going to do and what would happen to them. It excited me in a way that few things did. It made my life better.
This was not the first thing I ever wrote but it was the first time I actively associated the act of creativity with joy. Of course, not all creation is joyful. Often it is a maddening slog that feels like you are trying to swim while carrying multiple bowling balls. But I have to tell you, when you are making something, there’s nothing better.
To go back to my old job for a moment, I was not making anything. I was imputing numbers, processing paper work and other such adventures. The only thing I was making was the higher ups richer, especially when they put a raise freeze on lower levels of the company, of which I was most certainly a part of. Am I bitter? Damn right.
If I made chairs, at the end of the day I could say, “look, I made four chairs today!” (Full disclosure, I haven’t the slightest idea if making four chairs in one day is lot, a little or just right, but lets just go with four then. )
Looking at these imaginary chairs, I might think that a family would sit down on them and eat dinner. Or someone could read a book in one, or play a game. But I would’ve added something concrete to the world.
Words are ephemeral, you can’t sit on them, eat them or house yourself in them except metaphorically. But putting them in a certain order, they can make a difference. You’ve created something.
Of course some days, the words do not flow. It’s a struggle to write anything. It all sounds trite or it feels as though I’ve nothing new to say, or worse, everything I said before is garbage. Those days it feels like I’m wasting my time. Maybe I should learn how to make a chair, at least I’d have some furniture to show for my time.
I’d like to say that those days are few and far between, but that would be a filthy lie. They happen more often than I like, but not enough to make me stop.
There’s a very old joke about a man who goes to his doctor and tells him that he keeps hitting himself in the head with a hammer. The doctor understandably asks him why he keeps doing that. Because is feels so good when I stop.
Sometimes writing is like that.
All old jokes aside, at the end of the day, I’d rather build a rickety chair than nothing at all. Or a badly written page. Creating is one of the best things you can do, in my opinion.
Even on days that I’m tired, cranky and feel like I’m down to a 5% charge, I sit down and write something, even if it’s just a sentence, even it’s terrible. No worries, I can fix it tomorrow.
I’m always happier making something than not. That’s why I keep doing this. Whether or not anyone else is reading it.
That being said, I would prefer that someone is reading this.