Why Do You Write?

25 Aug

Normally I would dive into some topic that takes me a while to think about and write up, but honestly folks, I am not in the mood this week.  Too much stuff going on right now.

Just sayin’.

Thoughts On Writing

I started reading a fantasy novel that’s been talked about for a while now, though I’m not going to mention the name, for various reasons–not the least being because I’m still reading it.  What I will say is that I was enjoying it immensely at first, and then the scales of awesomeness started to fall away from my eyes and the critical writer-reader kicked in.

Hard to entirely enjoy novels sometimes when you’re trying to write one.

Anyway, the concept is original enough, but it feels…light.  Perhaps too light for epic fantasy, for my tastes.  I was surprised by how easy it was to read at first, but then I started to miss some of the dense detail that comes with other fantasy novels.  Yes, you don’t want your prose to be so dense that people can’t get through the first few pages, let alone the first chapters, but then if it’s too light…if there isn’t enough detail, then it starts to feel kind of superficial, you know?  (And this can be reflected in the writing style, as well, in the way descriptions and character thoughts are handled.)  Also, most of the characters in this novel have this same superficial feel about them, like the author didn’t explore deep enough.

So while I am enjoying the book for the most part, I can’t help but think all the while: I can write settings much richer, characters much deeper than this.

Call it arrogance, call it confidence, call it whatever you want…but isn’t this one of the reasons a lot of people start writing their own novels?  Because we actually believe we can write something that’s just as good as, if not better than lots of the stuff we come across on the shelves?  (Or on the online stores, in some cases.)

Ha!  And then you start writing!

In a way, it’s crazy to think this, isn’t it?  When you sit down in your first attempt to write a novel, you don’t actually realize what, exactly, you’re getting yourself into.  It’s way harder than it looks, and unbeknownst to the beginner it’s going to take you years before you even get to the point where you can actually produce something that’s presentable on the market.  When you take up novel-writing you take on a self-taught variety of education which you come to with the bare minimum basics already ingrained into your personal skill set (how to read, how to write, what a story looks like…), but then you have to learn so much more.  And that cannot be accomplished overnight.

It’s like going to college, in a way, and may take just as long.  (Does it depend on what “degree” you’re going for, and also your ability to learn quickly?)  It’s pretty intense and your teachers–in this case, authors who give writing advice in books, blogs, workshops, etc.–aren’t going to be looking over your shoulder all the time reminding you to do this and that.  Your progress is completely dependent on how much effort you put into learning the craft and how well you take and implement the lessons and advice you’re given.  (Though, not all advice is necessarily good advice, something you must discern for yourself.)

So anyway, I’m reading this fantasy novel now and thinking about all the things I could possibly do better…and then you come back to your story and assess where you are, how far you’ve come and how far you’ve still left to go.  I’ve got this ideal of writing in my head that I constantly shoot for, sitting in the back of my mind calling the shots.  It tells me when I fall short of “the grand vision” and when I’ve hit the mark, or when I’m close but still need to do some tweaking.  It feels like that sense grows sharper the more I write and that my ability to come closer to that vision increases with time.

Lots and lots of time.

Writing fiction is as much an art as it is a craft, and that’s why it’s so darned difficult to learn.

So yeah, I guess that’s why I keep writing.  I have a vision to create something different, something that I haven’t read yet, and I’m constantly shooting for it.  It’s grand, it’s epic (in my mind, anyway) and sometimes I think maybe it’s just a little beyond my reach.  (Go big or go home, right?)  Still, I keep on at it.  Sometimes I miss wildly, sometimes I at least hit the target board, and sometimes, every now and then, I actually hit the dang mark.

Now, when I get to the point where there are considerably more hits than misses (hey, I’m getting there)…yeah, then I can say I have a fighting chance.  Until then, I keep practicing.

And hey, when you’re learning the craft, there really is no rush.  I’m gonna get as much out of this phase as I can before I decide to start throwing my stuff out there.  No one’s gonna pay me to write crap.  (Okay, maybe that one is debatable; the point is, I think I know crap writing when I see it by now and how to root it out.  For the most part.  The rest is up to critics and editors.  I’m just trying to make sure I give them an easier time of it.)

So tell me, fellow writers: why do you write?

Also, what drives you to keep writing?

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14 Responses to “Why Do You Write?”

  1. emotedllama August 25, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    It might sound egotistical, but I write because I think I have some really awesome ideas and that it would be a shame if I didn’t write them. 😛

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 11:53 AM #

      Hi, emotedllama! (Tee-hee-hee, that made me snicker…)

      I think having–what we believe to be–awesome ideas is as good as any reason to write. If we don’t believe in our own work, then who else will?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 😀

      Like

  2. Mark Andrew Edwards August 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM #

    Love your post, I hope things are going ok for you, offline.

    Yeah, like you, I used to read books and get frustrated. I’d tell myself, “I can write better than this.” Also, I wasn’t seeing the books I wanted to read, anymore. I had characters in my head that I wanted to spend time with. One thing led to another and now I can’t/wont’ stop.

    The weird thing is, I used to find writing to be a chore. Now it’s a joy (editing now…). I don’t know what changed in me but something did. I’ll keep writing no matter what. I’ve come to a certain peace with the knowlege that my work right now isn’t the best I can do. I have faith that the more and I read and write, the better I’ll get.

    There really are no shortcuts. The flukes, the Paolini’s et al are just flukes. All we can do is write and read and keep going, keep sending our work out.

    Yeah, I want to see my name in print. I want to entertain people who like the same stuff I do. But ultimately, I write for myself.

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 12:09 PM #

      Thanks, Mark. I’m just…overcoming fears, persistence in the job market…that’s what I’m dealing with right now, heh.

      I like how you bring up writing as a chore and writing for entertainment and yourself. Sometimes writing is loads of fun, but then other times, when you come across a hitch, it gets to be tedious. I realized that in my earlier drafts there were places I kind of glossed over…’cause I didn’t have the confidence to write them, lol. But now that I’m editing I have to just conquer it and learn to do what it takes to get it right so that I don’t have to come back to it later. In other words, I have to just go there, wherever “there” may be and as scary as that place may be.

      Or else what’s the point of writing about it in the first place?!

      So yes, absolutely, there are no shortcuts. It’s your story and no one else can tell it for you. As the Nike brand promotes: just do it.

      Like

  3. taureanw August 25, 2011 at 11:19 AM #

    It’s pretty funny when the writer part of your brain takes over when you’re reading. Sometimes I read something & think the author is doing a horrible job, other times I’ll be Intimidated at how easily the author seems to be weaving the tale.

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 1:29 PM #

      Hi, Taurean! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Oh man, the intimidation thing is the worst! ‘Cause you’re sitting there comparing yourself to someone else, saying, “Dang, s/he’s good, and I’m…well, maybe I’m not.”

      Maybe. Like you know the truth and have Darth Vader whispering into your ear, “Search your feelings; you know it to be true!” …But you’re not quite willing to face it.

      Yet.

      I think that experiencing intimidation is just a sign that you have a challenge you should face, something left to overcome. In a way, it’s an acknowledgment that someone else out there is doing something better than you and that gets to you because, really, you want to be just as good, if not better; otherwise, if we are confident in our own skills and satisfied with where we are, then I don’t think we’d ever feel intimidated by other people’s work but rather be in peaceful awe and admiration of it–from which we can derive a different, less vexing form of motivation: inspiration.

      But to see someone doing a thing well then feel intimidated by it…it’s like they are somehow calling you out on something you know you should be dealing with in yourself, even though they’re just out there concerned about doing their thing.

      …Or maybe I’m just getting psychoanalytical now, lol.

      Anyway, sometimes intimidation is depressing and sometimes it’s even enough to make you want to quit altogether (or just deny the feeling). It can also push you to become better at what you do.

      I guess it all depends on how you look at it!

      Like

  4. T. S. Bazelli August 25, 2011 at 1:09 PM #

    Oh Tiyana, that was a quick, ‘let’s not think too much’ post? This is so much longer than most of my long thought out drivel LOL

    A good question though. I write partly because I can’t find the type of stories I want to read on bookshelves. If I don’t write it, who will? Also, I’d go crazy if I didn’t. There are too many ideas floating around in my brain. I need to let them out or they’ll quickly turn into mutant dream stalking monsters. hee hee.

    As an aside, I’ve set aside more books than normal lately (without finishing), not because they’re bad, but I keep noticing the things I’m consciously trying to work on/improve on, blatantly flaunted in the text. I suspect it’s my problem, rather than the book’s.

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 1:34 PM #

      LoL, when you put it that way… But yeah, actually, it was! Haha.

      Oh, boy, the “crazy writer” syndrome. That’ll do it!

      I’ve had the same problem, as well, with putting books aside so I could fix something in my WIP. It’s distracting! (Luckily for this current novel I’m reading, however, I have not been influenced in that way. For whatever reasons.)

      Like

  5. Stephen A. Watkins August 25, 2011 at 1:40 PM #

    1.) What Bazelli said, re: “This is a ‘let’s not think too much’ post”. Awfully thoughtful for not thinking too much.

    2.) I actually started writing for pretty much the exact opposite reason: I was impressed and emotionally moved by things I had written. And I decided I wanted to be able to do that. So I set out to emulate and learn from the writers whose works I admired the most. To this day, I continue to write in part because I have stories inside me that I feel I have to tell but still in part because I want to entertain and emotionally move others.

    3.) I think the “I can do better” sentiment is common (though I try to minimize it in myself; humility is a virtue). But I think you approach a good realization about it: it looks easy from the 50-thousand-foot level. But once you start doing it, you learn how hard it really is, and that’s it’s not easy at all to write something that’s really worth reading.

    So yeah, practice, study, practice. It takes a while to build the skills needed to succeed as a writer. I’m not all the way there, yet, myself, but I feel like I’m getting closer all the time.

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

      Well…it’s not that I didn’t think about it; it’s just easier to think about my own thoughts than it is to form thoughts on someone else’s…if that makes sense, lol. But thanks for saying so!

      On another note, that’s interesting how you bring up being impressed or moved by certain authors and wanting to write to entertain and move others. I think those are other good reasons to write and the last is certainly one that goes beyond self.

      Initially, I know I was very much inspired by an author (Martha Wells) to start writing, though after that after reading some novels I began to think, “Oh, I’d do this or that differently,” just because I’d adopted a writer’s perspective and was then inclined to imagine how I’d improve things. (A curse, I say!) And I hope others will get something out of my WIP when all’s said and done (I think most writers looking to publish intend for this to happen), but personally that isn’t enough to motivate me to finish my first novel–and a fictional one at that–because until I get published I have no real idea what potential readers will think of it. Not on a broad scale, at least.

      I’m sure writing for readers matters even more so than usual once you’re established because then they start to expect specific things from you, having seen some of what you’re capable of.

      So to wrap things up, I guess my current reasons for writing have changed from my original reasons. Or rather the drive to continue writing is sustained by something other than the original inspiration to write (and will probably be sustained by additional, more compelling reasons after the first novel is complete–i.e. making loyal readers happy).

      Hmm…so many reasons to write!

      Like

  6. Anthony Lee Collins August 25, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

    I sometimes get the “I could do better” feeling, but only about details. I could write a better sentence, I know what that word means and this writer doesn’t, I know how to spell better than this guy, that sort of thing. About the big stuff, how to tell a tale, I don’t do those sorts of comparisons. The goals are usually so different, it’s like apples and oranges.

    I write because I enjoy writing. It’s even more fun than reading and I enjoy reading quite a lot. 🙂

    Like

    • Tiyana August 25, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

      Well, on “big stuff,” let me put it this way: if you are reading a story and are finding it difficult to get a sense of a character’s personality, for example–or it feels like the character doesn’t really have one that’s discernible from others–then you might wonder how to go about bringing him/her more fully to life. (Though, maybe not.)

      That’s what I mean by “doing better,” or more effectively.

      Though, I’m all for writing for enjoyment, as well. Just have to be careful not to stop writing altogether when I’m not enjoying myself, lol. Unless it’s just taking a quick-ish break.

      Like

  7. Jody Moller August 26, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

    I wrote a post on this exact topic this week (and thanks to Anthony Lee Collins for directing me over here). I started writing because I had the ‘I can do that moment’, of course back then I had no idea how difficult it was to get published. Now I write because I enjoy it and I still hope that – one day – I will be published.

    Anyway here’s the link to my post. http://jodymoller.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/wednesdays-rambling-writer-why-do-we-write/

    Like

    • Tiyana August 26, 2011 at 10:34 PM #

      Haha, how funny is that!

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your link, Jody. 😀 Checkin’ it out now.

      Like

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