Why Do I Write?

pen-and-paper-writing-9349790-1024-768One of the women in my writing group posed the question to our loop, “What’s your reason to write today?” I thought it was a great question and all of the answers illuminated the different reasons we put pen to paper. But, more than anything it got me thinking about something I had said earlier in the day. I was speaking with another mom while waiting for our kids at school pick-up. When she found out that I had written a novel and was working on my second one, she enthused, “That’s so exciting!” – the most common reaction to that bit of news.

My response – “I wouldn’t wish being a writer on my worst enemy.” It was a knee jerk comment. I had been sitting in my car trying to fix my novel before sending it out to an amazing editor who is interested in it. I suspected that it might need work, a year after I thought it was done, simply because of agent rejections. Most have loved my writing, calling it “lovely” and “terrific” and more than one even asked me to send my next novel. But, they also had some issues with the plot of this novel. Just minutes before I got the full request from the editor at a networking luncheon, an agent whom I respect very much who rejected my novel explained to me that she found an aspect of the plot hard to believe. I took this comment to heart and mid-pitch to the editor decided on a plot tweak that I’m fairly sure will fix the issue and make it completely believable. I knew it was the right thing to do, even though it would be some work, even though the change in my pitch was completely by the seat of my pants. I explained that I had to make a minor change and it might take me a few days to get the manuscript out to her. She assured me that it was fine and that I should take my time.

I thought it was a quick fix, but the small tweak I made sent changes rippling through the rest of the manuscript. It’s taken me days to rewrite everything that now needs to be rewritten, so it matches that one little tweak and there’s still no guarantee that it will wind up in readers’ hands. This is why I wouldn’t wish being a writer on my worst enemy – not because of the act of creating art. Nothing makes you feel more alive. It is because of the chore of trying to get the art you’ve created out into the world. So, if that part of the process is so difficult, what makes me keep diving in? My writing peer’s question left me pondering that…

I write, because I can’t help it. It’s the only thing I’m good at. It’s the only thing that I’ve ever cared about doing, since I was a little girl – writing words that make people feel. If I don’t do it, I die a little inside. My first writing professor at the University of Massachusetts, Deborah Shea, inscribed this message in my creative writing notebook – “To be a writer is a truly honorable thing. You will be ostracized and rejected, but when success comes – and it will if you work long and hard enough – it will be sweet.” I’ve never forgotten her words to me, even though they were more than half a lifetime ago. I never thought that I’d be working this long and this hard, but somehow I still believe that success will come and it will be sweet. And even if it doesn’t, that’s OK – that’s not why I write anyway. I write, because I have no other choice. Stories need to be told. Emotions need to be conveyed and even though it is hard as hell sometimes and even though trying to get your words out there into readers’ hands can be soul crushing, I’ll keep doing it as long as I have something to say…

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6 thoughts on “Why Do I Write?

  1. jkrent says:

    The last few lines were exact and perfect. I have not been brave enough to try to send any of my works out yet, so I have to admire you for that alone, the published novel aside. Keep at it, for all of us that are just beginning the journey.

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