*This blog is moving. To read this post at the new location, click HERE.*
Chuck Wendig (author and author guru) posted another challenge at his website, Terrible Minds, and it sounded…well, not exactly like fun in the way of the previous one…but fun in an important, know thyself sort of way. And so here it is: 1,000 words (exactly!)
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Why do I write?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some sort of writing implement either in or at hand. I squiggled my fingers through paint and pencilled loops and wavy lines on scraps of paper. “What did I write?” I’m sure I asked my parents. Frequently. Insistently.
I bashed on typewriter keys with the same intent. “Quertyuiop” (pronounced “Kwer-tee-YOOP”) was a longstanding joke between my dad and me. A joke with no run-up, no punchline other than the thing itself. My introduction to the wonders of mechanical word-setting. The key, wrought by my own little hands, to a magical land.
I love the very act of writing, of laying down graphite or ink where none had been before, of putting letter next to letter to make words and then sentences. My dad’s family ran a printing company. It was gone before I came along, but it has been another joke that I have it “in the blood.” Maybe so. My mother, the other contributor to that blood, is a compulsive reader of menus and roadsigns. Text cannot be ignored. Between the two of us, the cereal box left out at breakfast has been read a hundred times over.
I remember a boxed set of very thin booklets. The first one had simple pictures; the last, full sentences. At some point, I binged, going through booklet after booklet until there were no more new pages to consume and so I read them all again because, my God, reading was glorious.
It still is.
A list of ingredients:
An odd child, too bright for her own good, growing up feeling out of place in the blistering (literally) heat of Tempe, Arizona. A wonderful (and wonderfully air conditioned) public library. Long days with, for varying spates of time, few friends. A vivid imagination. A compulsive reader. A love of writing things down.
This list is by no means complete, but it’s enough that you can see what the recipe will get you, right? Not a nuclear physicist, surely.
I may compulsively read whatever cereal box is set before me, but I’ll come to resent it. I don’t want to read just anything anymore. Back in the days when the SATs were something for which I was supposed to prepare, I thought to read the dictionary. I don’t think I made it past the first page.
There’s no story to a dictionary.
I’ve had several career paths, but if I were to draw them on a map, they would all be within that same magical land.
A silly, simple word for an amazing place. But then, “life” is a simplistic set of sounds, too, for something mind-bogglingly wondrous.
Qwertyuiop. The key fits in the lock, the door opens not with a drawn out *creeeeaaak* but a breath-stealing *whoosh* and there it is. A blank page.
“Where do ideas come from?”
Aw, geez, that question. Like I know? Life goes in the observation holes, gets jumbled around the circuitry like the shaker thingy in a game of Yahtzee, and then, quiertyuiop.
It’s not me, it’s story. Mostly, I’m in the way.
My own issues, my own distractions (like employment and sleep and obligations to loved ones and, okay, movies to watch and other peoples’ stories to read), and especially my own disbelief that I’m trekking my way to another completed book and wouldn’t I just prefer to write an outline instead and move on? Outlines are such fun and, like, a fraction of the words and it doesn’t matter if I goof a copy-paste insertion and double-up on “and” or “to.”
All of that is me getting in the way of story, and story will only put up with that sort of thing for so long.
It has ways, story does.
I had a Real Job once. It paid well compared to my previous in-between-college-and-more-school jobs—No, forget comparing. There is no comparison. I made more money at that job than in all the years before or since, combined. It had health and 401K investment match. It even involved the skills that I had gone specifically back to school for: Computer Animation. At last, things were going as planned!
Except that it could be so frustratingly awful that burnout came hard and fast and went so deep that there is scar tissue where there once was hope and joy.
Reading saved me. If I didn’t take my lunch with coworkers, I’d have it at Barnes & Noble. Weekends? Another Barnes & Noble. I was an addict. I could not read enough.
And then, while I mindlessly shoved pixels or waited for frames to render, I began to catch glimpses of things not yet written. Qwertyuiop, and the door to the land I’d neglected whooshed open.
Fast forward: Present Day. I’ve come to understand that if I don’t open the door myself and seek story out, it will come knocking. And it won’t be polite.
Frustration is rarely kind.
It wasn’t that I wanted to self-publish (oh, irony); but time spent on querying—researching individuals, crafting letters, filling out forms—meant time not spent on story. A story that happened—happens—to be a series. So, I could stop shopping Book One around in order to write Book Two…and then shop both?
“You said This Book wasn’t the right fit for your agency, but what about it plus its sequel?”
Or so I anticipated. It felt like the most pointless of pointless things.
Story demands my time, and it insists that it be made known. It’s not mine to keep, like a writ-down daydream. It’s not for me, it is of me. Storytelling is not a choice but a given. It is my recipe’s inevitable result.