First off, I should say I’m not making any demands on you personally. You don’t have to write. I’m just trying to tell you why you should give it a go and why I do.
Writers are generally divided into two camps. Some people say they’ve been writing all their life and some come to it later on in life. I’m in the former camp. I’ve been writing or trying to write all my life.
Recently I had a wobble. My work-in-progress has stalled somewhat. I’m 80% finished on what I’m not even going to call the first draft as it is still rather rough. I have a middle with so many black holes in it, I’m thinking about calling Professor Brian Cox to investigate.
This led to my wobble. I announced to my husband last week that I didn’t think I wanted to be a writer anymore and that it was a waste of my time. He shot back at me straight away with ‘but don’t you like writing?’
Yep. I do.
Why should I try creative writing?
People say ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Well, that’s true to an extent. I do love to write, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel like work. Especially when I can’t figure out what happens next or how to weave something into the story. In fact, sometimes my day job is easier.
When I clock out at work, I am free to be my own person. Free to go home, be with my family and friends, read, eat, sleep – the whole shebang. When I am writing there’s no clock-out time. I carry that character around in my head. I think about that character over dinner, while watching films, particularly while reading books and I take them to bed with me. Usually to lie awake and try to figure out why they are making the choices that they are.
OK, I’m not exactly selling it to you. But here’s the thing – I couldn’t stop doing it. If I gave up writing tomorrow, I’d still have those stories following me around. My brain would still be trying to figure these things out but I just wouldn’t have anywhere for the story to go. So that’s why I write. Not for fame or fortune or to be remember, but because I can’t stop myself. So, why should you?
Write To Meditate
Hands up who’s not good at meditation? Just me then?
Every time I’m told to empty my mind, every worry I’ve had in my life floods in.
Writing is just about the only thing that stops my mind from making noise. It blocks out my worries and stresses. For ten minutes a day, I can forget about my troubles or I can do the opposite. I can actually put whatever angers, upsets or elates me down on the page. I can distil my thoughts on the page, which is as close to mindfulness as I can possibly achieve.
Write To Live a Thousand Lives
‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one.’ So says George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Fire and Ice series. Which is true, but I would say it is even more true for writers.
To write a story, you must create a character. A character who can be anyone in time, space and beyond. You could pick someone who speaks, looks and acts just like you. Who even goes to the same coffee shop as you do. Alternatively, you could pick someone 200 years in the past or future or someone from a completely different dimension.
Many people choose to write fanfiction. I don’t, but I can understand why it is so popular. Any avid reader will have felt the funk of a book hangover. Where for days and (on occasion) weeks, they have to readjust themselves to the real world because they’ve been so immersed in a book and invested in a character’s life that the story has lingered on. Who hasn’t wished that the book continued on past when the author has tapped out ‘the end’? Or wondered at a much more interesting secondary character’s backstory?
Fan-fiction writers pick up where the authors leave off. Quite a few of the bestsellers of the last decade have started out as fan-fiction that evolved into something else. So if you are upset your favourite character didn’t make it past chapter thirteen, pick up a pen. You never know where it might lead you.
Write To Better Understand People
I’m quite an empathetic person. Sometimes I feel like you could leave the ’em’ off but hey! I’m too empathetic. Which is a weird thing to say about yourself. Sort of like saying you’re too humble, but I sympathise with people to the point that I make it hard to be annoyed with anyone. I can see both sides of every rational argument.
I am always looking for motivation. All the reasons behind why people act the way they do. We are living in a rather self-absorbed world at the moment. Everyone is thinking and looking out for only one person. I think society needs a bit more empathy right now (and probably a really big hug). I use my writing to look outside myself and my life. To discover the difference between myself and others and how that informs the actions, thoughts and words.
Write To Better Understand Ourselves
The book I’m working on at the moment is not autobiographical. However, that doesn’t mean the characters I write don’t have some of my personality traits or haven’t come up against the same obstacles as I have.
I have a lot of moments when I’m looking at the plot, thinking about what the character is going through and a light bulb goes off – I know this feeling. So I take myself back there.
For instance, when researching for my historical fiction novel, I found a character who moved from London to her father’s hometown. She felt like an outsider in her ancestral home. The other women mocked her accent, her clothes, her ways. The exact same thing happened to me when I was a teenager. I moved from London to my home in the North Coast of Ireland when I was 12 and was mocked mercilessly every time I opened my mouth. Because if you’ve been a teenage girl, you will know teenage girls are cruel.
Now, you’d think the second I read that my main character went through the same experience as I did, I would have thought ‘Yes! I know this!’ but I didn’t. I mulled it over and thought about how she must have felt – lost, lonely, out of place, angry – and I tried to match them up to a time in my life when I felt the same. Then one day it just popped into my head that I’d been through all the same stuff, because people bury these things deep in their brains in the hope they wouldn’t have to deal with those feelings again. Well, at least I do.
Write To Educate
There’s a big push from the children’s book industry towards diversity on books. And so there should be. If a child can’t resonate with the characters in their books, they’ll stop reading them. Children need to see themselves in books. The rest of the book industry is playing catch up with children’s books as literary fiction publishers only started to push for Own Voices in the last few years.
If you have a story, tell it. If you don’t see people like you in books, then create someone just like you and put them in a book.
Everyone’s thoughts, feelings and experiences are unique to them. It doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t universal or that they couldn’t be appreciated by someone else.
For adults, the opposite can be true. Adult readers want to escape their everyday lives. Otherwise, why would sci-fi, fantasy, or historical fiction be as popular as they are?
Maybe you have a cause that you are particularly fond of. Explore that cause in a fictional world. There’s a great TEDx talk by Terry Brooks called Why I Write About Elves. Brooks explains that he mostly writes fantasy fiction, but even though his stories are set in a make-believe realm they still tackle big issues. In the talk, Brooks explains that he writes about environmental destruction and climate change in an imaginary world.
Write to Exact Revenge
Sue Grafton, the author of the alphabet series of detective novels, originally started her collection of books when she was going through a divorce. She came up with her first crime novel as she lay awake conjuring up ways to kill off her ex.
So many of the novels I love (Wuthering Heights, The Count of Monte Cristo) are revenge stories. They are incredibly satisfying (to me at least). Who in life can say that they have gone through life emotionally unscathed? Whether it’s an unfortunate ex, a childhood bully or a boss, it would be nice to turn back time and right whatever wrong they exacted on you. Sadly time travel has either not been invented as yet or it’s a very well-kept secret, only for those in the know. Until time travel becomes as accessible as chocolate bars in a vending machine, we have the written word.
It doesn’t have to be as extreme as murdering those that have wronged you. It could be just as simple as saying that one thing you never did. Those words that came to you long after that bully made a quip.
Do you write? Why do you choose to write? More importantly, what do you write about? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to pop a comment below or head over to my Facebook or Twitter page and let me know!