Friday, February 28, 2014

Why I Write

L to R: a gift from my husband, his bear as a child, and "Sally" who was our son's bear
My earliest memories come from a several week hospital stay at age 3 when I almost lost my right eye due to a pernicious virus I've lived with ever since (and had two cornea transplants because of it). I vividly remember when the nurses would remove the pressure patches on my eyes and I could see the yellow walls and the rails on the bed. I still remember feeling indignant that I was in a "crib" because after all I wasn't a baby any more.
Because of this virus I missed a lot of school, and because my Dad was in the Army we moved often. Since I was very shy, it was difficult to make friends under these circumstances, and so books became my best friends.
Within the pages of a story I could lose myself, forget about my own problems, and share an adventure with my new friends. In the third grade Charlotte's Web became my new favorite (my original hardback pictured above--inside the torn book jacket the price is $3.50). I cried when Charlotte died, every time I read it, even though I knew it was coming.
Why, I wondered, did I cry about a fictional spider in a story? What magic was at work here?
That story magic inspired me to write my own stories, to discover why and (most importantly) how an author can make that connection to a reader.
Finally, after many years and at least two million written words I am beginning to understand. The characters must be real to the author before they can ever become real to the reader. Inside my head live many, many characters. Some are fully grown and as real to me (or more real) than flesh-and-blood people I interact with every day. Some are in the pondering process, as I get to know them better. Some are only vague shadows and may or may not reveal themselves.
But the reason why I HAVE to write, a process as vital to my emotional health as breathing, eating, sleeping, is because all these characters press against my psyche every day, imploring me to "tell their stories." I hear their voices and feel compelled to write down what they say. It doesn't matter if anyone else ever reads the stories, I must write them down because they are my stories to tell.
Thankfully I actually love the process of writing. Perhaps those authors we read about who turn to drugs and alcohol don't really love their characters or writing about them and are trying to "drown out" the voices. That's very sad.
I am so grateful for this outlet of expression, since being shy I have always had trouble talking about what's going on inside. It's much, much easier for me to listen to other people's troubles.
Hmm, maybe I'm a good listener because I've had a lifetime of listening to my fictional friends. Now that's a happy thought!
Why do you write?


  1. "Perhaps those authors we read about who turn to drugs and alcohol don't really love their characters "
    Or, perhaps they are trying to hear the voices more clearly, by suppressing their own mental 'noise'.

    1. If that's true, the potential damage from the drugs/alcohol seems counterproductive to creativity. I only have my 12 hour LSD-type trip on 1/2 a baby aspirin to compare, though, and that was TERRIFYING (I was 7 years old).