Saturday, December 6, 2008


Why not? Why not cut to the chase and address the most fundamental of all questions?

Why? Why do we do it?

Let's face it. It isn't exactly normal for a full grown man with a wonderful family and all of the great outdoors calling to hide away in a dark room, plotting and dreaming and creating worlds and hoping some of what's in his head--the passion and emotion--somehow gets onto paper. Is it?

So why go through all that?

Financial success? Gimme a break. Most artists put far more financial resources into their work than they ever get back out of it. Writers are no exception. I grew up in a family of musicians who didn't quite make it. My uncles spent most of their lives chasing a dream that never fully materialized. As a result, I was, ahem, encouraged, to go to college and get a real job. So I did. I was thirtysomething before I picked up the guitar and shortly thereafter, the pen. (OK, the laptop, but 'pen' sounds cooler) In a way I'm glad I waited to chase the dream of writing because now I have financial freedom and monetary success isn't an issue. Of course, who wouldn't want Stephen King's bank account. But that would be icing on the cake.

So then why do I write?

I've heard some people say that your writing has to change the reader somehow for it to be worthwhile, that it has to be educational or maybe uncover some universal truth. I dunno. At this point in my 'career' that isn't a priority for me. If it happens, it's unintentional.

My greatest desire for my writing is to create interesting worlds that readers can enjoy getting lost in. I write to a large degree because I ran out of reading material that truly engaged me as a reader and now I seek to build my own. I've heard the term 'brain candy' used negatively to describe writing or movies that has no value other than that of entertainment.

Is that such a bad thing? I mean, doesn't everyone like candy?

I know you guys aspire to a higher calling when it comes to your writing. So tell me what you think Wanu. Ink. Anyone? Am I missing something? Why do you write?


Anonymous said...

Well, it's a bit of a cliche, but I write because I'm a writer. I really think there's some truth to that old line. I write because stories are my way of interpreting the world. I think in narrative. If I'm on a bus and I see someone, and they say something... suddenly my mind runs with that, and strings stories and possibilities together out of those few brief words, out of a small experience that's little more than a fragment in time. Stories are a way to understand your experiences, to tie them together and make them meaningful and comprehensible.

I've always been fascinated by memory, and what is memory, really, but the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives? Memory is how me make our lives into something understandable and how we can shape a coherent identity. Writing is just taking it a step further, with the idea of making that experience available to other people.

So, for me, the stories and narratives will be there anyway, that's just how my brain works. That's my interface with life. The question is just whether I want to share those narratives, and how much effort I want to put into sharing them well (that is, into the crafting of those narratives).

And this instinct is further supported by my obsession with books and the fact that I'm constantly reading. Other stories help me frame my own, and my own life is thus focused through the lenses of these other stories.

In the end, it seems only natural for me to write stories down and look to share them. I don't think there's any communication quite so perfect as a book (except a good marriage, perhaps :)), and so why wouldn't I wish to make my own attempt? And if you then add in concrete ambitions... the desire only grows. Success, money, ego assuagement... These ambitions certainly don't dull the impulse to write. :)

So, for me, writing is simply making concrete what is already there inside me in a more abstract form. It's the natural continuation, I think, of who I am.

Ink said...

That was me, by the way...

Wanu said...

I think... There are two different aspects to this, because I think 'why' I write is slightly different from the 'having something to say' part.

You know when you're feeling miserable, you can look back at the life behind you, and you only see the miserable parts, they all link up because of the low position from which you're looking? Similarly, if you look back in a happy mood, you link up with all the wonderful stuff. It's all to do with how perpective is skewed by the sensations you're currently experiencing...

I got a 'look back' moment shortly after I decided to really give my writing a go. I looked back and saw all the times I'd written, and been a writer, without even realizing it: the times I carefully crafted a letter, going over it and over it until I thought everything was right, and then happily sending it off; the times I'd written in my diary something like 'this is going to be hard to descirbe, but I'm going to try...'; the times I'd checked and re-checked an email, or even a text message because I wanted it to work, to read the way I wanted it to read, and to fulfil its purpose, the times I wrote funny stories for friends at school, and the even crowded around my table as I began on another one... The absolute ache I felt after leaving university to write something, anything. You konw, while studying, it was only essays and coursework, but it was still pen, paper, keyboards and screens, and really the only academic thing I missed about Uni after I left was writing things down. I even sat with an A4 pad and a pen one day, poised, literally craving... and then wrote my diary because I didn't know what else to do, I just needed to write.

I looked back and saw all these things and said to myself 'You frikkin' idiot. How could you not consciously recognise your own main passion before now?'

So, I write because I want to, that's the most basic answer.

What you've probably noticed over the last year or so is that I'm not as bracketed in genre as most other writers, it's as if I'm not really sure what to write and I'm looking dangerously like a Jack of all trades at the moment. I think humor, mainly, is coming through, humorous stories, and mainstream things after that. (and always the aspiration to be lit, of course, but mainly because that is the creme de la creme of beautiful writing, I want to be able to do it).

Then there is a second aspect, the 'what I have to say' or the 'higher aspirations' as Book put it. I do have things that I want to tell the world (or at least the reader... or, indeed, anyone who will listen!) And they're observations and perspectives.

Everything I write has something to say, I think. The Preparation Bunny is about how adversity can produce mental instability and how that instability can be passed from generation to generation, and its a real look at how someone can be seriously messed up and not even know it, for themselves.

I struggled, craft wise, with Prep B, because I didn't fully appreciate that while the novel may be my way of saying certain things, the actual story was Chloe's (the MC's) and not mine. I kinda hijacked her life in palces to make certain points, but I needed to pull back and let the story impact through Chloe, and her alone.

Bulletproof Scooter is about selfishness, about how selfishness serves us every day, but also capturing that thing - people pretending not to be selfish, whereas you cannot escape selfishness. Morality is selfish. Ethics are selfish. Everything has a self serving desire at its core because we're survival specialists, humans, we absolutely have to be selfish in order for our species and cultures to work toward successful propogation.

Bulletproof Scooter is a look at handling selfishness in the knowledge that it isn't a bad thing, but rather something that we absolutely need and must learn to live with and appreciate.

There's a burning desire... My next novel is about cultural transmission. I won't explain that, but I know what needs to be said and the story will form around that theme.

Then there's the story of Palestine.

Parody, too, that's just holding something intrinsically risible up and going 'hey! look at this blummin' thing!'

I think that's why I like non-fic, too. As a writer you get a chance to say 'yadda yadda, this is the way it is...' I consider the production of posts at FM to be 'writing'. In fact, today, most of my writing was conducted on the boards at FM, and I value that as good writing time. Like I say, even a text message can satiate the desire, temporarily.

Ink went into the 'birthing of stories' thing there, and certainly that's a factor for me, stories that come, ideas that seem so amazing they just have to be shared. I dunno, there are a lot of different elements, but yes, wanting to write, and having lots to say, means I'm quite busy with the keyboard.