I entered this essay in an Editor Unleashed forum competition eleven years ago, for which the theme was “Why I Write.”
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Whether it was little stories for myself, poetry or plays for class assignments or even some truly dreadful fan fiction, there have always been words pouring from my pencil or pen.
“Why” is an interesting question. I have many friends who have never felt the urge to write anything beyond their school assignments, let alone write and publish a book (I have three under my belt and am working on a fourth). It would be easy to be flippant and say “the voices in my head want to get out,” but it is so much more than that.
Honestly, I think it’s because I, like so many humans around the world, find stories compelling. We learn things about other people and cultures when we read or hear stories, and we learn things about ourselves when we write stories to be shared.
There’s another part of the equation that needs to be considered, though.
What does it mean to “be a writer”?
First of all, I’m figuring out that it had best be a very spiritual thing, because not everyone will like what you do. Objectively, you can know that your work is better than thus-and-so’s, but ultimately you need to remember that judges (i.e., your readers) are subjective.
I know when my writing misses the mark; likewise, I know when I’ve done something that is pretty remarkable. The failure of those more remarkable pieces to inferior ones, where contest accolades are concerned, most likely says more about the judges than the overall quality of the material.
Another thing that, to me, is part and parcel of being a writer is being a reader. Get to know what you like about a particular work. Why does it strike a chord with you?
A very recent example, for me, was when I read a well-known romance author’s latest release for one of my book clubs. I found the plot tired and formulaic, and her writing to be a little … dull. I thought that part of my problem was that I’ve become a little long in the tooth to relate to 20-something, beautiful bluestocking virgins. (Did I mention that this book was rather formulaic?)
But then, I started a book that showed me that my assumption was false.
I never read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle as a kid. I loved her other books, The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Bark, and blame those books for the Dalmatian hair on my dark clothes today.
However, I digress.
The heroine of I Capture the Castle is a 17-year-old bluestocking, living with her impoverished family in an English castle during the war years. I am completely hooked by this book because of Smith’s gorgeous prose.
So, I figured out part of it. I write because I love to read a good story. I write because I want to share my thoughts. I write because I learn something about myself each and every time I work on a project.
Mostly, I write because some stories need to be told. I can’t always find the words right away; I haven’t found the words yet to write about Ruth Leggett, who was like a second mother to me. She passed away in 2008. I don’t know when I’ll find the words to write about my beautiful kitten, Gigi, who lost her struggle against illness today, November 7, at only 14 weeks of age. But I know that the words will come someday because some stories need to be told.
I also write because the voices in my head want to get out.
Sui Generis is perma-free on several sites. Here are the links and description:
Author Sharon E. Cathcart (In The Eye of The Beholder, Les Pensees Dangereuses) presents a sampler of essays and short fiction. The collection features “Heart of Stone,” a short story never previously published.