Every so often when I write one of these blogs I have a major revelation. That happened today as I continued working on a piece called “Writing as an act of love.” Frankly, I was proud of the concept; it tied nicely into what I’d examined last week in my “Writing as therapy” entry. It also dovetailed with the holiday themes that would’ve been so appropriate.
As I sat at my computer contemplating how to unite those concepts into a neat little bow, I asked myself a question: “Why does writing have to be for anything but writing?’
Excellent question, Pari. Life-changing, in fact.
You see, before I got married, I wrote because I loved to write. Sure, I had fantasies of publication, of being famous and retiring to the Cote D’Azur (or at least having a second home there since I could never leave NM permanently). Enough writing conferences taught me that, perhaps, those fantasies might be a bit overblown.
However, I still let myself dream . . . and let myself write for the pleasure of writing.
So what happened? Somewhere around the time I had children and opted to stay home with them, writing became a selfish act because it impacted others. I began feeling obligated to justify the time I spent doing it in terms of “success” and money and having it be a “business.”
How fucked up is that? More than sixteen years of forgetting why I’d written for all the years before. And now, even when I don’t have to justify why I write, I still automatically require the act of writing to serve double duty.
I believe that that’s a huge part of why I haven’t been editing for nearly two years . . . Talk about confusing issues! I used to adore editing! While the Master Class I went to stood that idea on its head, I’d hope by now I’ve incorporated those lessons deeply enough that they don’t have to be impediments. So why haven’t I been editing? I think I was equating editing with selling and, intuitively, I didn’t want to jump on the must-market bandwagon again.
What happened to my old attitude about editing? It used to be about making a piece as good as I could.
Sheesh . . .
The challenge with epiphanies is that they seem incredibly important in the moment and then — poof — often they fade into the background and things return to the way they were. But this realization feels very different. I don’t recall ever pondering it before.
Writing is for writing.
And meaningful enough right there.
How about you?
Does your creativity have to serve multiple purposes?
Do you feel compelled to justify it?
It has to make me happy. And, when I do it around family (and others who don't understand) I refer to it as 'homework'. When I graduate, and can't do that anymore, it'll be tough.
Yes, my creativity has to serve multiple purposes. It's how I make my living, and all the years that I've made my living at it have taught me how to find creativity within a structure that MUST have a payday.
But I find that I rarely get the joy in the MIDST of writing that I get from having finished something I'm proud of and that other people respond to. My gratification in writing is a delayed (sometimes VERY delayed) gratification. That doesn't make it any less joyful, it just comes at a different place. Sort of like, I imagine, running really hard and then having that incredible rush of endorphins once you hit the finish line.
I spent years NOT writing because I was trying hard to protect it from being a business, or work. And now I've catapulted into trying to make it be a business and work, and as usual, for me, the issue of balance is the key to everything. I am not writing as much lately because I am so focused on the business end of things, and I feel a desperate, deep need to go back to the writing for its own beautiful sake. It's such a teeter-totter. I'm in one of those moods right now when I am ready to scream at the universe: can I please work on something other than balance? 🙂 Thanks for looking at these issues – Monday mornings are the perfect time for me to read your thoughts on these things.
I've thought about this for a couple hours and I'm not sure this is going to come out right, but . . .
There's great pleasure in creating characters to match the voices in my head and playing What-If with them. I can amuse myself for hours at a time this way (I am a simple people). There's also great pleasure in translating the stories into marks on paper and pixels on screen and in finding the right words and placing them just so.
Occasionally, that's enough.
But if I didn't, on some level, want this stuff to be read by others, I probably wouldn't bother writing most of it down. Once I know how my stories end, sometimes only the thought that a (potential, hypothetical) reader *doesn't* keeps me going (I am probably also a lazy people).
Ugh. Sorry. Need more caffeine.
Your solution amuses me. May you be a student for a long time!
What a wonderful way to put it — about that delayed joy/gratification. I'm going to sit with that one for awhile. Thank you.
Thank you for taking my questions seriously. I sometimes wonder if I get far too philosophical in my approach to writing. I think the fact that I'm working full time right now — so my writing doesn't have to be my livelihood — is really forcing me to look at its intrinsic value in my life.
I think you've hit on something important: writing for the "other." Without that potential reader, we might not feel the urge to make something the best it can be. I may not have been completely honest with myself on that one.
I'm going to think about that perspective for a bit too!
Yet another great post.I always wrote bits of stories, even before I had any thoughts of publication, but part of the joy of it for me is the fact that it has enabled me to earn a living from words (and pictures) for the last 25 years. I am now officially unemployable in any other field, I think 🙂
I write because I want to know the story. And even when I *know* the story, I still want to find out how it unfolds. It's just fortunate that my reading tastes are for popular fiction rather than obscure works, so that's what I write.
Recently, as Alex said, I've enjoyed 'having written' more than I've enjoyed the process itself, but going back to basics (as detailed last week) has given me a lot of enthusiasm back.
I'd agree with Sarah W, too. I write to be read. Producing a full-length novel is hard work and takes application — lots of bum in chair. Without deadlines, even self-imposed ones, I would probably write a lot more slowly. So the commercial/business aspect just keeps me motivated.
It really resonated when you said that as soon as you had kids, writing became a selfish act because it affected other people. I understand that all too well.
I like the idea of writing for writing's sake, without having to pile extra work on top of it. That's been hard for me to maintain with all the emphasis on promotion, selling, etc. It's really about me, alone in a room with the voices in my head. That's the part I love the best: writing.
I've been skewered by other writers before for liking writing more than having written, but I continue to stand in that corner.
Thanks for a great post!
I wonder if I'll get to the point again where the commercial/business aspect will inspire me to move forward. I don't know. I love your perspective, however, and am very grateful you shared it here!
One of the things I love about writing this blog is the learning and sharing between those of us who care (or have some time) to comment. I don't know what corner I stand in nowadays because it's so far from where I was last year at this time. Too much has happened.
That's why I take heart from others who express their perspectives so well (like you and Zoë) . . .
I bumbled a brilliant comment to you (of course it was, trust me) so I'll just say, great post. I'm always curious at a careful distance about the where and the why of my need to write. It occurs to me that the characters need a voice and guilt makes me do it. If I lock them in, a part of me is just as incarcerated. And then there's the voices… I'm sure massive doses of Thorazine would only make them mellow.
To anyone of your entourage (and everyone is) when it's time to write, tell them it's like breathing, or dialysis, or meditation or prayer. It's appendages as real as the hands from which the words flow.
Dismiss them, send the entourage out for cheese blintzes and tell them not to annoy their betters. It's neither pay or play, it's letting the voices out so they don't annoy you too. If you say that with a touch of the maniacal in your eyes, they'll leave you alone with your works. Just remember the natives always give respectful distance to those tetched by the gods. And if you happen to write murder mysteries, all the more reason to leave you to it.
By the way, I can't edit. I can spell check, but that seldom works completely. If I edit something is lost. If I'm lucky enough that someone will edit for me it's always a far better. Perhaps I can offer a solution for your editing guilt,,,
I'm amused . . . and I think that comment was pretty darn good (so if you messed up another one, I'm really sorry to have missed it.)
I used to joke about my writing and letting those voices out, but lately I've gotten very pensive. It's not that my sense of humor has fled, it's just taking a nice cruise somewhere and waiting for me to catch up.
Re the editing
Nah. I'm not going to take you up on it. I want to get back to my own work eventually. And with close to two years' worth of words needing attention, I'm bound to be busy for thrice as long. <g>.
In my Facebook profile, I say I'm writer, I'd stop if I knew how. I write because I'm never more miserable than when I'm not writing. That doesn't mean I love writing, I just feel worthless and adrift when I'm not working on something. It feeds my spirit in ways nothing else does or can.
And that's that, Buckwheat.
Contemplating how to unite those concepts into a neat little bow, I asked myself a question: “Why does writing have to be for anything but writing
Agreed, David. Every time I think about stopping, a part of me starts to die.
arg. I posted, I saw it, and now it's gone. That says a lot about writing. We have to do it. It isn't always there. Damn and it was good (of course it was). Enjoyed all of this. Gordon was the best.
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It is an outright.