a.k.a. the List of the Reasons Why I Write, as told by me through the course of a year.
Blog Post #36
So back in February 2016, I read this Tor/Forge blog post which left me reeling for literally the rest of the year with a singular question. While writing this, I had to go back and actually read the post to recall what the erst of it was actually about. Even if I had forgotten the rest of the post, it says enough of asking the right questions to know that this one stayed with me the entire year, and had, unintentionally, begun to creep up at the end of a good handful of my posts throughout the year.
Why do I write?
That’s it. That’s the question in a nutshell. It is deceptively simple in the inquiry, and it feels like it would require a similarly simple answer. Not so. My first knee jerk reaction to why I write gave way into all these other deeper, more meaningful reasons, to silly reasons, to motivational reasons. I attribute this to the sort of year 2016 was.
I think we can all officially agree that 2016 wasn’t exactly the best year that we could have ever had. Some of us may have stayed up until midnight in our respective time zones just to watch this year die.
For me, 2016 started a day early with the last dream of 2015. I haven’t spoken a lot about that dream or the details, but I will say this, when I am emotionally upset, and I repress that emotion (my standard reaction), eventually, the need to confront my issues manifests with nightmares, and sometimes, just sometimes, a singular dream is will take to wake me up. On December 31st, 2015, I woke from a dream that hit me with all the clarity of lightning.
It told me that I had abandoned all the things that the younger version of myself had wanted from life, and I needed to take them back. It took nearly two weeks and the events that inspired Never Meet Your Heroes to compel me to take the first step on that path toward my dreams while awake. From the loss of celebrities that inspired me, to reading in horror the tweets about the Orlando Night club shootings on the train back from Printer’s Row Lit Fest 2016, to Election Night shock throwing off my NaNo progress, to so many other dour things, it would have been easy to simply give up on something as fragile as a dream.
It’s the reason I spent a lot of the past year looking really hard for reasons to not give up, to keep writing, to keep pushing forward to keep putting down words when I couldn’t even emotionally deal with aspects of reality.
While not every one of you who read this is going to be as low as I felt a certain points this year, we all do eventually have lows, places we need to climb our way back out of in order to keep writing. I encourage you to make your own list of all the reasons you write, hang it on the wall, and look at it as a reminder when you just can’t keep going any more. Until you get your list together, feel free to share mine.
Keep Writing in Order to:
And by this I mean, when I was in high school I used to have regular bouts of insomnia. Some night it was induced by the illness known as “just one more chapter” that lots of readers are familiar will and other nights was due to my particularly stunning capacity for procrastination. The remaining nights I could not find sleep was because there were things in my head that needed to be let out, creatures from a case that needed freedom.
Some nights it was the ‘what if’ questions about life, about myself, and those were journaled. But more nights than should be expected of a high school student were spent bound to either a notebook or my laptop just trying to get the characters out of my head. They pestered me with their own problems, and really I need sleep. It didn’t matter what time it was or what time I had to be up. If they were pestering me, I had to write it out, get it all down on paper, so it would calm my mind enough to grant me dreams that brought new stories and characters with them. Typical.
Bind the Universe Together
Storytelling is probably as old as fire, if I had to guess. But you know, don’t cite that because there’s no actual proof of that. But if you’ve read The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, sometimes the best way to share stories is around a camp fire. It helps us to bond with people. And then when stories took a physical form, books then became a way of recommending people to one another. Totally sound non-scientific logic….
This is why stories are like the Force. The nature of stories to bind us together by our shared narratives, makes it a power unmatched in the universe. It might be a bit Slytherin, but who wouldn’t want to become a writer when you think of stories like that? You are weaving the strings of Fate that bind people. How cool is that?
Reveal Truth through Empathy
Stories have power to instruct and inform and encourage and empower readers. But it has the power to knock them on their ass as well. Words are the method through which writers can transfer their own thoughts and idea into the minds of readers, in the present, from hundreds years ago, and in some special cases, from thousands of years ago. While it’s odd to think that you are somehow time-hoping when you become a writer, I like to think of it more like a message in a bottle. Who knows who will find it and when? And while the times between the writer and the reader could have changed, there are parts of human nature that never will.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” –William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Humans love and hurt all the same as they ever did. We all understand the heart break of loss and we all know the thrill of first loves. Some things, not even Time can change. Stephen King wrote On Writing in 2000. In May of 2016, sixteen years later, I had to walk away from his book because I was shaken by his words. They were as true for me this year as they were for him the year he wrote them as the year he lived them. Stories help bind us together, and despite the distance of time, the truth of the words will leave you aching even if they were written sixteen years (or more) before you read them.
Spend Time with What You Love
Writing about what you love. I wrote From the Woods You Came to put my own twist on the Little Red Riding Hood tale. No, I was not a normal little girl. Yes, I enjoyed creepy dark fairy tales. And there’s probably something in this world that you love too, even if you don’t know much about it yet. My NaNo project is set in San Francisco. I’ve never been there, but the project has forced me to learn about the city. Currently, I’m talking about eventually taking a trip to New Orleans, and I’ve been falling in love with the city the more I learn about it. I’m sure eventually I’ll have to write a book set there.
There are so many things to love about this world, and each can be written about. You love cats, but don’t have a cat? Write about cats. You love elves, but haven’t met one? Write about elves. You love Renaissance Italy, but don’t have a time travel device? Write about it. Research will never feel like drudgery for these stories because you already love things they are about.
I can’t afford to visit the places I love in real life so I spent time there mentally when I write about them. I didn’t have much growing up, but I had an imagination. It let me enjoy the things I love without having them tangibly with me. Go spend time with the things you love.
If Chuck Shurley taught me anything, it’s that writing is hard. And having a bad day makes the work harder. It’s difficult enough some days to find the right words, but harder still to even focus on a scene when your emotions are literally dragging you somewhere else mentally. So let it wander there. I like knowing that even if the world is literally about to burn, I can still write. I can still put my thoughts to paper. Angry at someone and need to vent? Put it down in ink. Bursting with joy and there is no one to tell? Put it down in ink. Terrified by the dream you just woke up screaming from? Put it down in ink. (This, I think, now explains three quarters of all Facebook status updates).
I’m not that open of a person with all my emotions, so usually all my ink is more literal and lengthy, and not ever going to be seen on Facebook or Twitter. But having those emotions down on paper, not only prevents them from burning me up alive, it also proves to be valuable later when I’m trying recreate character emotions. Knowing what I experienced as I felt similar emotions helps me make my writing more true.
Catch Your Dreams
I’m sure every writer mentions at some point have dreamed of becoming a writer. And while dreaming of something is important, it’s only forming the idea of what you want. Chasing it down like you want to be the very best that no one ever was, that’s the first step of being a Pokémon Trainer as well as being a writer! Catching your dreams, well, it’s less a catch and more of an adventure with no real ending. At least not for me. This is an adventure that I will be on for the rest of my life.
This morning it was cold, dark, and gloomy. I woke up in my toasty bed and seriously debated spending the day there. Just pull the covers up over my head, maybe reach out and grab a book to read, but mostly, just to stay in bed. A single thought occurred to me, and that thought was enough to make me toss back the covers, shiver in the cold air, and pull back the curtains to let in the light.
You want to be a writer more than anything, so go write.
Please like and follow for more writing encouragement. If you have twitter, feel free to tweet me at @MLTrumbull.
Love, Lightning, post Holiday Cheer, and a Happy New Year,
M. L. Trumbull
P.S. In case you were wondering, that is a picture of me in a box, specifically the package that I mentioned in my last post. Happy 2017!