What Compels You To Write?

writingIf you’re a writer, what compels you to write?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself lately as I tip-toe down this new path in life, a path which I hope leads toward publication. But why? Why do I care if I’m ever published? I can just write for myself, right?

Of course I can.

And I did, last year. I wrote my first book. O.K., first draft of a book. I kept telling myself I was doing it for me, and it didn’t matter whether or not anyone else ever read it, much less liked it. That was a bald-faced lie, of course, but I had to keep repeating it to my anxiety-ridden brain, or I never would have finished the thing.

“Who do you think you are?” “You think you can write like Eloisa James? Lynn Kurland? LaVyrle Spencer?” “You’re not even trained for this – you never took any creative writing classes!” “Like you’ll ever actually be able to do this – give up!”

These are just some of the thoughts my inner demons have thrown at me along the way – and I still battle them daily, as evidenced by the fact that five months after I finished it, my first draft remains a first draft, and that the draft of my second book is only at 15K words, written in dribs and drabs as I wage war against the bombs of self-doubt exploding continuously in my head.

I don’t say this to invoke pity – I’m no different than most writers, I guess. Self-doubt seems to be a common theme among authors as I read through more and more tweets, blogs, writing guides, etc. I say it to force the question, again, of why do I want to write? It’d be easier not to pursue this dream. Many days it is. Many days the only writing I do consists of Facebook updates or silly tweets.

But the urge is there, within, blazing against all the barriers I’ve set for myself. I want to write stories. And I want to share them with the world. Even more, I want the world to love them.

Do I care about financial success? Not particularly. Would it be nice to bring home some money to ease the breadwinning burden my husband has born for 14 years? Sure. But I know in my heart I’m not in this for money. Which is a good thing, since in spite of my husband’s insistence that I could be the next E. L. James or Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, I know better. I know that ain’t happenin’.

So if I don’t care about the moola, what do I want?

1. I want to write good, well-crafted, entertaining, heart-touching, laughter-invoking stories with a happy ending. I LOVE a good romance. I have since I was a teen. I’ve always realized that romance novels are not the simple formulaic stories others accuse them of being: most of the authors I love are highly educated smart women who write for smart audiences. All the elements have to come together to make a romance sing: characters, plot, story development, dialogue, outcome. It takes talent to do that. Do I have such talent? Who knows?

2. I want to connect with other people. Writing by and large assumes an audience. I suppose diaries may desire a viewership of one, but any other form of written communication seeks just that – communication. Connection. Bonding. Understanding. And maybe a little bit of ego – a little bit of, “Look at me! Here I am! Pay attention to me!”

3. I want to be entertaining. Nothing attracts me to others as much as a good sense of humor. I love things that make me laugh, and what usually gets me grinning is witty word play. I read romances more for the zippy interactions between characters, especially when slight snark is involved, than I do for the sex, people.  A well-written sex scene? OK, yeah, I’m good with that. But what I *really*  love is the romantic build-up, the sexual tension, the will-they-or-won’t they (even if you know they will; it IS romance, after all) – all of it. Much of that, for me, is shown through wit, through dialogue as foreplay, if you will. I’ll take verbal dexterity over muscles almost any day. But put them together and…*dreamy sigh*.

4. I want to prove to myself I can do it. I’ve been told my whole life that I am a good writer. I’ve been telling people my whole life that I’m going to write romance novels. But I excel at, well, not delivering. Those anxiety bullies in my head? They’re pretty good at stealing my lunch money. They’re great at keeping me from my goals, whether through letting myself get distracted by other obligations, real or imaged (I am a wife and mom, after all, so it’s not like I don’t have any other responsibilities), paralyzing me with self-doubt that leads to nowhere but inaction, or making success sometimes feel as scary as failure.

5. I’d like to think the voices in my head are characters who are asking for their stories to be told, rather than, uh, something else.

Those are my reasons. What are yours?

4 Replies to “What Compels You To Write?”

  1. Great post! I’m not a writer, but my reasons for doing what I DO do come from inside me as well. I have no idea how they got there, but I no longer care about that part. My job is to listen to them and just keep on doin’ what they say!

  2. It’s almost eerie how similar we are! I write for the same reasons. I love the idea of entertaining people.

    I write contemporary romance. Considering indie publishing. Writing and learning a lot for now.

    • Hi Laurie – thanks for the reply! Maybe we’re secretly twins. 😉 I, too, am considering indie publishing. For now I’m just trying to get words down on paper (well, o.k., screen) and to stop fretting about what happens with them later. Keep me updated on your work!

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