And We’re Wondering Why We Do This

And We’re Wondering Why We Do This

(Title is a Frank Turner lyric. Of course. I actually wrote an alternative version of this post that is, like, Frank Turner themed. You can find it here.)

Okay, two things need to be said before I start this Teens Can Write Too! blog chain post. Firstly, John Hansen was kind enough to swap days with me because he and I were both on Twitter when he was writing his post (a day early for his time zone) and I was realising I should have written mine already (a day late for mine). I should have been yesterday. I apologise for the confusion. Secondly, I am aware that I haven’t commented on a single TCWT post apart from Charley’s at the very beginning of the month, and that was just a coincidence. I’ll get to those as soon as I have finished writing this, okay? Don’t panic. I will read them.

The topic for May is Why do you write? Bet you’re seeing where that title fits in now.

Many people ask me, “Why do you do that?” when they see me in the library trying to hit a certain wordcount target – usually several thousands above the NaNoWriMo target, because I’m a ridiculous overachiever. They ask me “Why do you get up early and write? Why do you spend so much time reading up on boring bits of law and politics as research? Why do you edit? Why, in short, do you like doing this?”

And I don’t have an answer for them. Well, that’s not quite true. More correctly, I have an answer, but it would take too long to explain it. So here are my reasons:

I write because I like writing. Because writing is a chance to create something that I know I can improve and refine until my vision is clear. I’ve always struggled with drawing, although I’ve begun to improve in the last few months, and I don’t yet know that many steps for ballet so choreography is somewhat limited and it’s hard to get a point across. Writing, on the other hand, is something I know I can do and something that can show my vision to other people.

Writing is a chance to change my mind. You know when you make a decision, and a few months later you wish you’d taken the option? Through writing I explore those parallel worlds, the things I never did. My characters aren’t me, and their options may not be exactly the same, but they frequently take the equivalent of the other option and I’m able to live it through them.

When I write I can live a thousand lives without leaving my own. I’m paraphrasing something Maggie Stiefvater’s character Nuala in Ballad said, actually, though she was talking about directing movies. Through writing I can feel the emotions and make the decisions and savour the triumphs of a life I’ll never live for myself. A long time ago I wanted to become a champion Irish dancer – that was what I wanted. I didn’t want to do it in a tacky dress and wig, I wanted to do it as myself. And so I wrote first Legacy and then, closer to my heart and feelings, Memory. (Both of them are bad. Both of them are available to read as an early draft on Protagonize. I do not recommend it.)

Writing allows me to take out my anger without hurting any one. Some kid set off the fire alarm, got my whole year thrown out because they thought it was us, and I was very angry. And my friends will attest to the fact that I’m quite a violent person (for someone of my size, I’ve been told I punch remarkably hard). But the revenge I settled for was to write into a book a character of his description and with a similar name and then kill them off. Horribly painfully, probably slowly. That’s enough to make me feel better. When a friend read one of my fresh drafts she asked me if I’d had an argument with one of our mutual friends. I had, and I asked her how she knew. “Because the character you’ve always said looked like him got tortured way more in this draft than the previous one.” It was true. I wrote that scene when I was really mad at him. I enjoyed it a lot.

Through writing I can explain things I can’t explain out loud. I’ve been known to write letters to my parents when there was something I needed to tell them that I felt I couldn’t say out loud. I think I’ve done it four times now – the first three were dance related, and were generally my trying to persuade them to let me do Irish dance / ballet / more classes in a logical manner, since when speaking I tend to get emotional; the fourth was about a situation I’d lied about and was feeling guilty about having lied about and wanted my mum’s advice. However, I’ve also used writing fiction as a way to do this. There’s a scene in Watching where she finds out that her grandad is dead. And it doesn’t really fit and it seems a bit random but no one, not one person, who read that draft commented on it. Because I wrote most of Watching in the two weeks following my grandad’s death and I needed that to be there. It was, I guess, my tribute. (It’s still there, though I’ve since modified it to seem less out of place.)

Writing is a discipline that doesn’t feel like a chore. I like playing music, but ‘practice’ is boring. With writing, I know that at this age a lot of what I’m doing is ‘practice’ for when I’ve lived longer and have more depth to my writing. I’m honing my skills for when I have the emotions to match them. But it doesn’t feel like that, perhaps because I know that publishing and professional writing doesn’t depend on age. I don’t know. It just feels like it’s got a purpose in a way that few other things do.

And that’s why I write. There are so many other reasons, but I won’t go into them now, because, hey, we’re busy teens and don’t have time to read all that.

Thanks again to John for allowing me to escape the shame of missing my day completely :)

How about following the rest of the blog chain instead?

May 5––The Leaning Tower of Plot

May 6––Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

May 7––Cassidy Marie Rizzo

May 8––This Page Intentionally Left Blank

May 9––You Didn’t Really Need To Know This…

May 10––Inklined

May 11––The Word Asylum

May 12––Lily’s Notes In The Margins

May 13––The Zebra Clan

May 14––Tangential Bemusings

May 15––Reality Is Imaginary

May 16––Dragons, Unicorns And Other Random Things

May 17––The Lonely Recluse

May 18––The Incessant Droning Of A Bored Writer

May 19––A Farewell To Sanity

May 20––All I Need Is A Keyboard

May 21––Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

PS – Did you know that you can ‘like’ me on Facebook?

23 thoughts on “And We’re Wondering Why We Do This

  1. A fine post, and fine reasons within it I say! Though I’ve never been very good at maiming people I know in books – I don’t like putting them into stories, because however much I hate them, I feel they don’t warrant that degree of attention from me. In my head, though, I happily feed them to my nastier creations >:)

    Hehe, writing being fun is probably the most popular reason there is – I’d go mad if I didn’t find something vaguely useful later in life to be entertaining. It’s not as if quadratic equations or long essays on Descartes’ ontological argument are scintillating, is it?

    1. Quadratic equations should be shot.
      I am ALWAYS writing people into books. I guess it helps if when I’m writing a scene in which they suffer, I can project all my bitterness against that person onto it, and it helps me to feel like I’ve got my revenge without ever hurting anyone. It also means that the character is likely to be more 3D because I’ve got them more solidly imagined in my head. For example, there are only a couple of my characters that I’ve really cared about to the point of regretting killing/maiming them, and they were both ones for whom I’d had a model, even if I met the ‘model’ after I originally invented the character.

      1. Oh I see! Hehe, I’m the other way – I empathise better if I can build the character up myself, rather than working from a fixed point. I’m also more of a coward than a revenge taker … that probably has influence xP

        1. I don’t seem to be able to picture my characters very well unless I’ve got a ‘starting point’. Jennie, I still have no idea what she really looks like. Bronwyn, on the other hand, has more than a passing resemblance to Gwen Cooper.

          1. LOL, mine practically walk into my head looking as they do. Trying to describe them differently than I imagine them to avoid mixups in my head probably accounts for how shape-shifter-y they get at some stages xD

          2. I’m jealous, I still have issues with imagining appearance. It’s why I try and draw my characters these days – then I have a picture to refer to.

      2. I’m with you Miriam. I have a hard time picturing the characters in my head. Most often the MC’s look like me. Morgan from Faerie Bound is the first one who doesn’t… and that’s because it was Ffion who wrote out the first description of her based upon the fact she was her character’s daughter – lol… since then I’ve tried to stray from my own mental image, but I’m trying to move away from the self model – writing’s always been an escape from my life for me, hence why I do that. :}

        1. In my head they often resemble me even if I don’t describe them like they do – which is why I get people to draw them for me so I can see how they imagined them from the description, allowing me to try a different viewpoint.

  2. Oh goodness, writing deserves all the credit it gets for letting people kill people without being charged for it. I take my anger out through writing all the time. And I also really connect well through writing things I can’t say out loud.. I write letters a lot because of that one.
    Nice post!

  3. Excellent post, as always! You have some great, well-set-out reasons to write. I agree with you that writing is a good way to channel one’s emotions, but I’ll have to save my whole piece on that for my day to post.

    1. Bizarrely, with the two I’m talking about here, I wrote the characters more than a year and a half before I met the people who look like them, and in one case had a personality creepily similar to the character (right down to dress sense and favourite band). In edits they began to take on even more characteristics of my friends, but the fact was that I met them and thought, “You look like Alex,” rather than writing about Alex and basing him on my friend Andy.

      1. So it was a coincidence that you happened to have a character made that seemed exactly like someone you knew later in your life. (It’s a time paradox, I’m telling you. You didn’t get any otherworldly visitors before you made those characters, did you? Perhaps someone who looked like them, but older? Or– if you’ve read The Fire Ascending, Chris D’Lacey– it’s that type of paradox, where the timeline was one way originally, but when it shifted it left you an idea for these two characters, which you wrote down, documenting how it happened in the other timeline, but believing it to be fiction. Perfect.)

        1. Yes, a coincidence. Our first meeting:
          Him: Why are you staring at me?
          Me: I’ve just realised who you look like.
          Him: Who?
          Me: Alex.
          Him; Okay, and who’s Alex?
          Me: My main character.
          Him … You know, that’s mildly creepy.
          Me: Yeah, sorry about that.
          A few weeks later we were discussing music and he happened to mention that he liked MCR. A lot. So I asked him what his favourite song was and he said that he liked a lot of them but he really liked The Sharpest Lives. Now this is where it gets weird. See, in the first draft of Watching I’d quoted that song. What was more, I’d long said it was Alex’s theme song and really summed up his feelings a lot.
          So, I got pretty freaked out by that…

    1. Ha ha, I know what you mean. In my earlier books, and in my short stories, I’ve been kinder. It’s only recently I’ve stopped with the whole ‘life I want to have’ thing and had ‘as cruel as I can possibly be’ as a motto instead.

  4. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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