Why write?

Why do I write? Why do I do this to myself?

I’ve asked myself this lots of times. Especially during dark days when the rejections were piling up or the scene I was trying to bring to life was just cold and dead in my hands.

Writing is, by nature, solitary work. Unlike most careers, I don’t get to gather with my peers at the water cooler or at happy hour to gripe and gossip.

It doesn’t impress the opposite sex, so it can’t be considered an alternative to being a quarterback or a rock star.

It’s not the greatest pathway to fame and fortune. In the 25 years I have spent doing this I have found writing to be consistently, wildly, financially unsuccessful (I was actually employed by the state of Colorado for six months to write some guide books, which was fun but paid less than a job delivering pizzas).

It is filled with frustration and rejection. Most of the rejection letters I have gotten were utterly impersonal form letters without so much as my name on them. Over and over I have poured my heart into something and  received in return only a huge yawn of indifference.

Yet I keep coming back to it and the question is why? (Beyond the obvious ones having to do with brain damage.)

Then I sit down with my story and a scene comes to life and I suddenly remember why. When it’s flowing, and flowing good, the words fly out in a frenzy. When it’s going good, I’m in the scene. I live the scene. I’m not the writer; I’m an observer, frantically trying to capture the brilliance of the sunset before the night comes.

When it’s really going well, the characters blaze into life. As living creatures, they become unpredictable. I have had scenes stolen by minor characters who just took hold of the bit and refused to let go. I’ve had characters kill and die and do all kinds of things I didn’t expect them to.

That’s when I remember why I write. Oh, I definitely enjoy hearing that someone has liked something I wrote and I wouldn’t mind selling a few million copies of my books rather than a few dozen, but most of all I write because I love that feeling when characters come to live and begin running all over the place. I love that feeling of creating something out of nothing.

Ultimately, I love my characters, even the annoying ones, and I just want to see what they will do next. I write so I can go along for the ride.

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