Someone asked me why I like writing. I said, “Because I like it.” I felt pretty foolish at the time. But the more I thought about it, I realized that’s all the reason I need. Here’s the answer I would have liked to give if I had more time to explain:
One night I was writing – that is to say I was struggling with a story. My words were terrible and nothing was forming. I asked myself a question. Quite literally, I asked myself this out loud (yeah, I talk to myself when I write): “Why don’t you just quit?”
So I did. I quit.
I gave myself full permission to stop writing. I wasn’t going to write any more that night and I wasn’t going to write any more the next day. I would write only when I felt like it and if I didn’t write again I wasn’t going to be hard on myself about it.
Aaaah! It felt good.
I pushed my chair away from my desk, I looked around the room with my arms reclined behind my head, and I asked myself, “Okay, now what do you want to do with all this new free time you have?” Within half a second the answer came to me so completely and so truthfully that to deny it would have been an act of lunacy. The answer: “I want to write.”
I tried to push the thought away, but the it came back. “I want to write.” And, better yet, there was no “or” option. I wasn’t debating between writing or playing guitar. I wasn’t waffling with writing or reading. I wasn’t deciding between writing or watching TV. Writing is all I wanted to do. I pushed the chair back to the desk and I continued to struggle.
I’ll be honest, the writing continued to suck and that night was not fun. It was, in a way, a negative epiphany. I gave myself permission to stop and to fail (and I really believe that stopping is failing). But when I thought about what I really wanted to do with my time, the only thing I wanted to do was write. It didn’t make writing easier or more fun. My writing did not improve (at least not right away). While I affirmed a self-truth that night, my writing life has been no easier since. What it did give me, however, was the absolute truth that this is what I wanted to do. Maybe I wasn’t going to be any good, but it’s what I wanted to do.
Why do you fall in love with that girl? Why is that your favorite color? A choice to write is that way too. You know it’s true, but there really isn’t any logical explanation besides, “Because I like it.” Yet, that same illogical explanation is all you need.
Everyone has a dream of publishing their writing. But Green Circle and Blue Square writers often haven’t figured out what motivates them to write. When you sit down to write something, there should be a purpose behind that chapter, short story, or poem. And that purpose has to come from somewhere inside you. With the exception of the select few writers, gone are the days when you could make a living by selling short stories and novels. If your only purpose is to sell or impress, your writing will suffer.
Even though I still struggle with writing, I found my purpose for why I do it. As ephemeral and ineffable as my reason may be, it works for me. I write because I want to. I’ve worked with other writers who have different takes on this: I write to be read; I write to understand my surroundings; I write to make sense of things; I write to express my emotions. All these, in some way, come back to the author finding a sense of purpose within him/herself. Write because it’s what you do.