Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Why I Write

"I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it." –William Faulkner

My daughters are still on Easter break. It’s been a long holiday. And I cannot write. I need peace and solitude to write.

I’m not a writer. I don’t earn a crust from it. I’m not a published author. My name does not grace the cover of a book or appear in the by-line of a magazine article. I wish it did.

Sometimes I fantasize about turning back the clock, returning to the time when I chose my path in life. If I could go back, I would choose the writer’s way. I wish that I had been brave enough to pursue my passion, instead of settling for a soulless desk job with a pay check at the end of the week. I wish that I had made writing my craft, my art, my life’s work, my trade. But I don’t have a time machine and I can no sooner go back in time than I could fly to the moon in my daughter’s fairy costume with the pink gossamer wings. Even the magic wand and the fairy dust won’t help me make that journey.

The truth is that I don’t need a psychic or a life coach to tell me why I didn’t pursue my passion. I was afraid. Afraid of the critics, afraid of putting myself out there, afraid to find out that everything I have ever written is boring, unoriginal, caricature-inhabited, cliché-ridden crap. It is my fear that encourages me to write privately, to save my work on the computer, to hide it away in a secret file. I’m not afraid of the perspiration or the hard graft. But if I write and I am exposed as a fraud, who will I be?

But still I write. I write for myself, tapping away at the keyboard, wrenching words out of the cobweb-infested nether regions of my brain, slitting my wrists and hemorrhaging all over the screen of my laptop. I write because I can’t stop writing. I write because there has never been a time when I haven’t written. Writing helps me make sense of my world. I cannot fathom my life without it.

Sometimes when I read a beautifully written book, filled with prose so lucid and vivid that it makes my heart sing, I back away from the keyboard, and I take a sabbatical from my private life of fiction writing. Because I think that there is no way that I could ever come within a fraction of the power or the humour or the thought-provoking genius of a book that made me laugh and cry and turned my world upside down, shaking loose my preconceptions.

When that happens, if I stay away from writing for too long, I start to itch. My life careens and tips into a chaos and I feel slightly lost. Something is missing from the finely wrought balance of my daily life. I feel slovenly yet edgy, dissatisfied with everyone and everything. And then I know I have to get back to my writing, to flex the muscles and stretch the imagination.

So why do I write? I write to express my feelings. I write because I need a creative outlet. When I write, I can be my best self. When I come to the page, I come to it honestly. When I write from the heart, in a free flowing stream of consciousness, my life is illuminated. When I give birth to my fictional characters, if I am true to them, they grow from needy newborns to toddlers discovering their independence. Pretty soon they are skipping and running across the page, telling me what they plan to do. And I have no choice but to tell the truth. Because anything less is an insult to my private stash of saved documents.

Someday I may take back the power I’ve given to my fear. It’s not too late to send my baby out into the world. I hope that I’ll have the courage to finish my book and choose the writer’s path. Until then, I will continue to write for myself.


  1. That was a moving post. But I'd say don't be afraid, start putting your work out there, finish a book, if it gets rejected a few times so what?? I have put myself out there and I think the rejections help to make you thicker skinned!

  2. How my lovely NVH, what a truly wonderful and moving post. If you ever need to show to yourself what a talent you have, then come back to this piece and know it.

    You have managed to encapsulate what I expect many of us bloggers feel about writing. I know you have hit home for me. Unlike you though, I haven't even indulged in writing privately until I started this blog but via a blog win, I find myself on a 6 week writing course which I hope will bring me out of my cocoon.

    Why don't you join me? Its not too late, we've only just started. Its only six weeks and about £65.....Go on, you could you know. I'll be your pal. We'll do it together.....

    MD xxx

    ps details of course are on my blog in the Gallery: Joy post I did today. xx

  3. I say go for your dreams! There is no time like the present to conquer your dreams.

  4. What a beautifully written post. I remember reading an interview with JK Rowling ( sorry for the blindingly obvious choice but she can certainly write ) and she said she couldn't really imagine doing anything else. I find that ideas, thoughts & characters rattle around my head trying to find form and substance. By the time I come to write for me the hard bit is over.

    If you love to write then it's for you - if you choose to send it out into the big wide world I can't help but think it will just feel right. Sorry for the airy fairy post I haven't had any coffee. Rococo on Motcomb Street is my favourite place to go for tea - they are really chid friendly ( even do parties ) they do wonderful, non kiddified chocolate making classes for big & small and have a secret garden open in the warmer weather.

  5. I think blogging has been such a blessing for so many writers. It gives people an opportunity to write short pieces, and see how they're received. It gives people an opportunity to gain confidence. I, for one, would maybe never have started to write if it hadn't been for blogging.

  6. Thank you so much for stopping over at mine and how strange to read your post ~ I know EXACTLY what you are saying! but I too have had many a soulless desk job, and I too don't earn *much* of a crust from writing and often feel deflated by the need for constant 'selling of soul'.

    You are a writer; becxause you can't not write, because you clearly write beautifully and because you feel it. Just because you are not published or in a by-line, it doesn't make you any less of a writer. Sadly there are many names printed on pages that are not even writers and I realise that staying true to ourselves as writers is more important than being printed... although I can't deny that of course it would be lovely to make a real living out of a passion ;-) but it's a balance between being true to our passion and love of writing, and the need to push ourselves. It's a harsh world.

    Keep doing what you do and just push a little more out into the greater world here and there - you might just be surprised at what comes back :-)

  7. Well, you're certainly not a boring writer. Would it help to tell you that I got a book published (with a good publisher) after I turned 40?
    The truth is though, that it can be really hard work so you just have to sit down and keep writing.
    I read recently that many people don't really want to "write" a book as much as want to "have written" a book, because the process is so tortuous.
    Chin up, head down (so to speak) and good luck!

  8. Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments and tips.

  9. Great post. You've pretty much summed me up there. Reading other people's work can be inspiring and intimidating at the same time. Having just discovered blogging a couple of months ago, I'm currently going with "inspiring"! Mainly because I'm writing regularly again for the first time in ages - although now, with two small kids, I have less time than ever to devote to it.

    I'm still plugging away at the desk job because I never had the guts to try to write for a living. But even so, I keep telling myself "one day..."!

    For what it's worth I love reading your blog. So stick at it, believe in yourself, but - most importantly - enjoy your writing :)