"Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story." ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

01 July 2011

why I write

“This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.” ~Annie Dillard

When I was younger, I wrote all the time. I was one of those journal girls, and I felt like I had to write something practically every night or I would burst (so, maybe I was a bit overly dramatic--guess that’s where Raiden gets it from, huh?). Besides journaling, though, I also wrote stories. I loved writing so much that I made that one of my IEP Goals in junior high, and Mrs. Blythe, my Advanced Studies teacher at Bonner, thankfully obliged me. I have no idea how many stories I started during my teen years, but I do know that getting 30 pages written on the same story seemed like a huge accomplishment. Kind of crazy to think that I’ve got a story sitting at 370 pages right now when I look back to those days, but I digress…

As I got older and closer to graduating, like always people started asking me what I planned on doing. When I got to college I went through multiple majors and finally graduated with a B.S. in Physics and a minor in Biology. The ever-present giggling teenage girl in me finds the “B.S.” title rather amusing, let me tell you, but that’s beside the point. This fall, I will start teaching 7-12th graders Biology and Earth Science, a job for which I am extremely grateful, but about which I also keep experiencing this other feeling that jumps back and forth from excitement to nervousness. Ten years after starting my senior year of high school, I will be back in a high school classroom.

I say all that to say this: when people started asking me what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I think even back then I knew that what I truly wanted to do, what I still want to do, is write. That’s not to say that I don’t want to teach--part of my heart will always belong to education, no matter what else I may be doing. The scientific side of my brain is screaming at me right now, telling me to think logically (note: you have to hear Mr. Spock to get the full picture, but then I guess there wouldn‘t be any screaming from Spock). The odds of becoming a published writer are…well, lets just say it’s a very low probability. Why in the world would I want to write?

It’s not that I want to become a best-selling author, the next Stephen King or Dean Koontz. I would be lying if I said I don’t dream of something like that happening, but that’s definitely not what drives me to keep struggling to string words together in hope of getting the picture in my head down on paper. So, why do I write? I write because it is one thing I do that doesn’t ever feel wrong. I’m not saying the words don’t ever come out wrong, because that happens quite often. Maybe it’s the scientist side of me coming out--experimenting, trial-and-error, and a whole lot of guessing all play major roles in the writing process for me. What I mean is, when I start writing, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else. There may be a hundred other things that other people think I should be spending my time on, but that fades away.

I’ve read where some authors say that characters come to them and ask for their stories to be told. To be honest, that sounds a bit creepy to me! I mean, really--if that statement was made in everyday conversation (“I have people talking to me that nobody else can hear, and they want me to tell you about them”), would you or would you not feel the need to call for the men in white coats? I don’t hear the characters talking to me. Maybe a concept comes creeping out from the back of my brain, blurry and still mostly hidden. It isn’t until I actually start writing that the characters take shape and come to life for me. So, okay, maybe somebody should be calling the white coats to come for me, too…

I write because it is great to see the development of an imaginary world that no one else has ever seen. Just like I get lost when I read, I get lost when I’m writing, too. For a little while, the rest of the world fades into the background. Nothing can happen unless I let it happen. I guess a bit of the problem I have with wanting to control things comes into play here. At the same time, though, it can feel like I’m not in control at all when I write. Creativity is a strange thing, something that isn’t often encouraged in the math and science courses that have made up the past few years of my academic life. For that matter, it’s not something encouraged in education in general all that often any more, but that’s a different story.

I also write as a way to understand myself. Starting way back with the teenage journaling, I have been able to make sense of things much more when I see them on paper. That’s still the case, although it is a much different thing when I’m writing a story. When I write, I think part of me goes into the story. It may not be recognizable to other people, but I can see parts of myself in different characters--good and bad. Writing lets me pour part of myself out onto the page without worrying about what other people are going to think, because chances are that whoever reads my story won’t see what I see. I hope, though, that they will see something “real” in the characters I make, something they will recognize.

I’m a quote junkie, so besides the quote at the beginning of this mess that may or may not have made sense, here are a few quotes I’ve found in various places and from a mishmash of people that explain a little more about why I write.

“I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“For the time of writing, I am nobody. Nobody at all. I am a conduit, nothing but a way for the story to come to the page. Oh, but I am terribly alive, then, too, though I say I am no one at all; my every sense is keen and quivering.” ~lee Smith

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.” ~Alan Alda

“Life is a risk.” ~Diane Von Furstenberg

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. cummings

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” ~Walter Bagehot

Fair warning: I debated quite a while about putting this last one in here, and the reason will be obvious to those who know me. In the end, the quote won out, despite my hesitation ,just because it is completely true in my opinion: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


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