Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Write?

This month, in honor of Valentine's day my writer's group decided to write about why we love writing.  It's an appropriate question really, and one that every writer ought to ask themselves: why do I do this?

Fulfilling a Childhood Dream
I don’t know when I decided that I want to be a writer.  It happened sometime in 1985 or 1986 during my senior year, between reading Lord of the Rings, and The Sword of Shannara.  I looked in vain for any other type of fantasy worth reading but nothing captured my imagination quite as much as Tolkien or Terry Brooks.

And somewhere along the line I figured, how hard could it be?

I knew it was going to be a long time before I could get deep into writing.  I tried while I was in college, but college pretty much takes over your life.  I had no spare time.  Also, I noticed that my writing lacked authenticity.  It lacked purpose or passion.  I knew then that I would have to live life, and gain experience through the choices that I made and the trials that I experienced.  I was more or less compelled to lay it aside.

I wouldn’t pick it up again for fifteen years.

The Passion
When I did pick it up, I was looking for something entirely new to do with my time.  I’d grown bored and restless.  I’d watched the years pass by, the good and the bad, and I’d begun to wish I had something more to show for it.

This is probably the fundamental reason why I write.  It’s that creative passion, that yearns to be sated.

I tell everyone that wants to learn something new that passion will take them a lot farther than talent.  Don’t worry if your talent is weak.  Passion will help it grow.  Just stick with it.  Have patience.

Developing a Talent
I asked my wife what she thought about me picking up writing.  I was beginning to have doubts, and I couldn’t convince myself that this was worthwhile.  She told me that writing was a talent, and that any effort spent developing your talents was worthwhile.  We’re both LDS, and we’re deeply religious.  Developing talents is something you hear in a lot of LDS Sunday church meetings, so the message hit hard.

The Community
About a year after I got into writing I joined the League of Utah Writers, and found a writer’s group.  We started a group blog, called The Writer's Ramble.   I've been to lots of writing conventions.  My favorite one starts tommorrow in Provo, Utah.  It's called Life the Universe and Everything.

This has been an amazing experience for me.  It’s awesome meeting other people who like doing what I do.  I’ve learned so much from other writers, and the emotional support I get from them has helped me stick with it.  As an added side benefit I’ve made a lot of friends, which is nice because I’m kind of an introvert and a bit of a curmudgeon.

Social Media
Social media is like planting a garden. You have to spend time with it.  You have to put effort into it.  And the real satisfaction is watching it grow.  My wife and I have been blogging now for a couple of years, and it’s been fun watching the hits climb.  It’s been a challenge to find our voice and to come up with content that continually brings visitors back.

Benefits to Family
All of the things that I’ve learned have started to benefit the rest of my family, as they try and improve their own talents.  My wife wants to write a non-fiction book.  She’s started working on a blog to capture an audience, and I’ve been able to help set that up and we’re watching it grow.  My daughter wants to be a graphic novelist, and I’ve been able to talk to her about story concept, about audience, about plot, all kinds of things.

I Keep Getting Better
This hasn’t been like the other talents I’ve tried (like music—ugh).  Or singing (I’ll never be Steve Perry or Lou Gramm).  When it comes to writing, I’m actually getting better.  I’ve taken honorable mention two out of three times with Writers of the Future (the third time I disqualified myself by putting my name on the manuscript).  I’ve placed in a handful of contests that I’ve entered, as well.

I’ve improved in many ways.  I have a better understanding of character voice, I have a better understanding of story structure, I no longer say things twice, and I no longer confuse the reader by saying things that contradict each other.

Sometimes it’s frustrating.  I’ve been working on the same novel since 2010.  Every year I tell myself, “Next year I’ll be finished with book one.”  “Next year I’ll be ready to pitch to an agent.”  But I keep getting better.  Then I go and read in my writer’s journal and I can see how much I improve.  And I look at my wife and my children who are beginning to benefit from the things that I’ve learned.

And It’s all worth it.