Monday, May 30, 2011

'Why' Isn't Important

It only follows that the next article would be about 'why' ... why would you be a writer?  It's not healthy from a vitamin D perspective, it's not a reliable vocational option, it won't get you laid (not until you get good and published, anyway) and it doesn't have the cachet of 'cool.'  So where's the return?

I used to tell people in my youth that I felt a force physically dragging me in front of my typewriter (I am really, really old) and forcing me to write.  Young people, they do have delusions.  Compulsion and obsession seemed like romantic concepts in a Gothic kind of way, even before the invention of Goths.  But over the years I have gained greater insight into why I drifted into this habit, and why I continue to carry it forth.

I like myself.  And there is something satisfying about having something to say that is so pithy and important that is must be written down so that others can read it.  Yes, true, it has to be decently written before others will read it, but even if they don't, you will.  Remember the words of Robert A. Heinlein, speaking through his character Lazarus Long:

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of - but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

Because yes, despite whatever grandiose notions you may have, despite your hopes that others will take notice, despite your efforts to get better and despite whatever deep and abiding purpose you hope to bring to other's attention, this act - when carried out for any purpose that doesn't directly apply to keeping you alive - is only masturbation.

No one will ever care about the size of your body of work like you will care.  No one else will so closely read the reviews about your work as you will read them, and no one will ever 'get' the deep nuance of your pet phrases or brilliant plot turns on the level that you understand them.  Rid yourself, if you can, of any notion that you're in control.  People will probably love you for the work you've produced that you yourself hate worst of all, something you wish you'd never written.  And they will hate that one project that you've worked your whole life to produce.

Produce it anyway.  It's in your nature to work in the way that you do, and you'll never change that.  Don't concern yourself so much with the 'why' as with things you can control - like when, or how much.  Keep your focus small, and you will enjoy the process all the more.


  1. All right, I started free writing a little today while I was laying out enjoying the holiday. Wrote a little about my deepest fears and some made up military stuff (third person). Let's see what happens.

  2. Indeed, I believe you have to write a lot before you even get your first average quality work.

  3. So what's our next assignment, teach ?

  4. Sincerely, I don't have any plans to give 'assignments' ... though I will get around to making suggestions about how to be a better, more focused writer. But writers must set their own pace, choose their own assignments and so on. My best suggestion is always to write as often as you can about anything you want.