“Why we write” Da** it!

PortraitThis post by Craig Snider

So, you’re a writer, huh? Of course you are. Aren’t we all? Get in line, bub. What makes your writing so special anyway? How are you any different than the millions of other writers swimming around on Amazon, or drifting about at conventions trying to peddle their latest thriller about a president, double-agent spy for the military? I’ll tell you what: nothing. At least, not in the sense that would be logical within the context of this discussion.
What am I trying to say? That writing has no purpose because there is no such thing as an original story? Yeah, I suppose so. I mean, it is true. No matter how complex or layered you make your story, it will inevitably be based in some part on archetypal stories that have come before. We stand on the shoulders of the great men who have come before. Did I come up with that? Does it matter?

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There are thousands, perhaps millions of writers on this planet, right now, typing away as I write this, hoping against all odds they will one day write something people will pay to read, and see their name next to the word “author.” Then what? Will that mean you have succeeded? That all your hopes and dreams have come true? Yes, it does. Congratulations, Snow White, you’re living in a fairy tale.
Statistically speaking, most of us won’t be able to make a living writing stories and weaving fictions. But, we read posts with titles like “Why we write” and feel rejuvenated with our divine purpose to dish out another alternate history book where George Washington falls in love with a time-traveling Jacky Kennedy, or another paranormal fantasy with the ghost of Sasquatch being hunted by a bipolar werewolf with separation anxiety, or maybe, god forbid, a literary fiction gambit where we try desperately to make that awkward period of our youth try to have some meaning beyond strange body hair, dressing room bullying, and the inevitability of wet dreams.

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So, fine. I’ll admit it. I like the idea of being a writer more than actually being one. Because, boy howdy, writing is hard. It requires more effort than I have to give, and quite frankly, there are just too many episodes of Doctor Who to get through on Netflix for me to sit down and contemplate fictional lives. And yet…
I keep doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any misconceptions that I’ll become famous one day (and that acceptance speech for the Nobel on my computer was totally written as a lark), or that I’ll even be able to write full time as a career (unless it involves trying to come up with endless ways to write the same advertising copy again and again). So, why continue?
More to the point, why do so many feel compelled to write those self-involved, pretentious posts about “Why we write” to begin with? What do they ever say that really illuminates the ignorant public and gives them insight into the unfathomable minds of writers like us? Nothing. Just some platitudes about, “I can’t NOT write.” Yes you can. Just stop. And, take your meds, ammiright??
No, I guess that isn’t true. Here’s the truth. We write because we can. That’s it really, probably, the whole truth of it. If we couldn’t write, then we wouldn’t, though that hasn’t stopped some. Lookin’ at you Meyers and James.

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So, let’s all just stop writing those insipid posts that are just a self-absorbed pep-rally for other wannabe writers that believe there is some secret to it other than putting pen or pencil to paper, or fingers to keys, and just doing it. Let’s quit all the hemming and hawing about the writer’s struggle. The struggle isn’t real. We made it up, just like everything else we write. Neil Gaiman said all writers are liars. Ain’t that the truth, honey.

Because, the day I write a “Why we write” post is the day you know it has all come to a screeching halt, the brakes are out, the engine’s on fire, and I’ve more than likely waited too close to my deadline and had nothing else prepared.

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11 Responses to “Why we write” Da** it!

  1. Kathy Waller says:

    Good post. The “why I write” pieces have a similar effect on me. George Orwell said we write from egotism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, or political purpose. I’d like to think better of myself, but I probably write from egotism. I’m also a bookstore writer–I’d rather read about it than work at it.

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  2. Neva Bodin says:

    I wonder if we always know why we write? Interesting post!

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  3. Doris says:

    Craig, your sense of humor is so spot on. Of course you would write this post when under deadline. I’ve read it more than once and grin widely every time. Doris

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  4. Great post Craig! Love your original sense of humor and choice of subject and words. Sometimes I think I totally know “Why I Write” but most of the time I’m in the dark. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Mike Staton says:

    I think, therefore I blog. How many people actually read the blog post? Probably a hundred or so, right? Back when I was a reporter, my bylined news and feature stories were read by thousands. Had fun reading your post, Craig. And what you say is true. Gotta go…more comments to write.

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  6. Wranglers says:

    I write because I can. LOL I guess that’s one good reason. Once a week or so I say, “I’m done writing.” Then… I find myself planning the next story or the next book. Cher’ley

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  7. I’ve been ready to throw in the towel more than once, and yes, I come back to it (most of the time to writing articles for which I get paid). I am thinking of hanging up the “book author” sign, though, because I get very frustrated not having the time to give to a book (and yes, I have about five ideas in various stages on my computer; I just can’t seem to get them finished). Since articles pay, and some pay very well, and I have standing gigs, maybe that’s what I should focus on and stop beating myself up for not getting another book out. Perhaps “authoring” can wait, for me anyway, until I retire. But, then again, that kid’s cat book REALLY calls to be completed. Great post, Craig!

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  8. S J Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Writing can be hard. When my sister and I decided to co author a book she had no idea. Now here we are in the final stages of editing, and she has a hole new appreciation for people who actually sit down and write, not just talk about it.

    I write to share, share my experiences, my opinion, my world with others.

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  9. Hilarious post, Craig. I can relate as I’m sure we all can. I think there is a lot of egotism and self-importance to writing as Kathy (and George Orwell) says. It’s also like an addiction I just can’t shake. I love that high when a story is published or when people respond to it (whether it’s good or bad). I love that “omigod” moment when after I’ve beaten my head against the wall for days I see how the story ends or where it will go from here.

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  10. Nancy Jardine says:

    Yes, indeed, Craig! Well written about the endless stream of banality. I see writing my fiction as an extension of my reading – though that wasn’t always the case. In my teaching days, I was foremost a reader and only a writer for teaching purposes. If wrote a new lesson plan I knew my audience was, more or less, restricted to my class and that the plan was probably going to be reviewed and re-written to some extent the next time I was covering a similar subject ( every year saw a new initiative!!) My expectations were therefore ‘in the moment’. Now as a novelist, my hope is that my work has a more timeless appeal- even if it doesn’t reach millions of readers to begin with.

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  11. I have come to believe that the stories writers today come with are inspired by the spirits of the writers before us. They tend to keep their beliefs and legacies alive. But hey, that is my belief.
    The best way to write and feel good about it, is just to not talk about it and be about it. Again, my belief.
    And yet, very true that writing takes a lot of time, attention, and of course money. The question I continually ask myself, “How bad do you want it.” The answer keeps me going strong, day in, and day out.
    Thanks for this post, filled my mind with great thoughts. I appreciate you.

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