Writing workshops and cons are great fun. It’s pleasant hanging out with people who don’t panic when they overhear a heated discussion over whether a dagger or a short sword would be a better choice to try and kill a king. Besides, we spend a lot of time holed up in our houses, and getting out is healthy. Every now and then, the question will come up, “Why do you write?” Every single time, somebody in the group will sigh soulfully and intone, “I write because I must.”
It’s not that I don’t believe some folks feel this way. Quite a few writers I respect clearly do. It’s just that it has become THE catch phrase. It doesn’t sound like a reason; it sounds like the kind of thing a pretender says to sound enigmatic and throw the questioner off track. People who use that tend to be the ones who’re writing for fame and fortune, and that’s like having a baby to save your marriage. It almost never works and you end up awfully tired.
The writers I know have desks loaded with ideas scribbled on scraps of paper (or sometimes sticky notes in various colors stuck all over), ARCs, library books, pens, little good luck toys and such. If this is an already published writer, there’s likely a stack of copyedits on a side table that she’s going to finish later on. Half a dozen magazines that the writer hopes to sell to are stacked on the floor by the chair. She writes with her hair in a ponytail and no makeup, wearing pajamas or sweats. She has a cup of coffee or tea nearby that ends up cold because she forgot to drink it. If she happens to answer the phone, goodness only knows what the conversation might be like, because her mind is still stuck in the world she’s writing. There are no million-dollar advances or visits with Oprah in this picture, but that’s okay, because that’s not why she’s writing.
I write because I keep having these cool ideas, and I want to tell everybody at once. It’s a lot easier to write them down than to spend the day on the phone telling one person at a time. Especially because I hate talking on the phone. I write because it makes me happy to do so. I write because when I’m writing, I’m not worried about the economy or the Beetle’s college prospects or my parents’ health. As one of my favorite fictional characters said, I must do nothin’. If I stopped writing tomorrow, the stories would still be in my head, entertaining me. I’m writing them down because y’all seem to like reading them, and I’m just that kind of a giver. *grin*
You all have heard, by now, about the latest news from HarperCollins, and should know about the downsizing of publishing in general. It’s scary, no question, but it’s also going to be interesting to see how the changes trickle down. With competition becoming fiercer in the face of more limited purchasing by publishers and print magazines folding every week, will the pretenders wander off to play at some other endeavor? Will the slush piles be slashed? I think Faith said it best – what arises from the ashes is going to be a pretty impressive beast. The romantic ideal of being a writer may evolve into more of a warrior’s role. I can see it now…there I stand, my next contract raised high, in my slippers and sweatshirt, triumphant.
Just call me Misty, Slayer of Manuscript Demons. Who’s coming with me?