Someone recently asked me why I love writing. My first thought was “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……”
My second thought was, “I just do. Duh.”
Then I decided to actually think about it. What is it about writing that I love so much? Why is it the only hobby I’ve stuck with since childhood? Why do I still do it, keep up with it, invest time in it, let it consume my thoughts every day, and care about it so much when it doesn’t make me any money and doesn’t get beyond a very tiny circle of people?
I’ve figured out some reasons. They may not be the only ones, but they’re a few. My initial thoughts. Please keep in mind that this is about why I love writing fiction.
1) You can do whatever you want in writing. You can stick to reality or not, stick to your species or not, your planet or not, etc. You can think of any topic and decide if you want to present it the way it is in reality, or if you want to make up your own rules entirely. Up to you. Related to that, you can choose your own genre. That’s part of the fun, deciding how crazy or depressing or imaginative you want to get in any given story.
2) You can learn about so many different things while writing. This is my favorite that I’ve come up with so far. You want a character to be a fisherman? You study fishing. You can spend hours reading about fishing and fish and fishing conditions in Alaska in winter without feeling like a weirdo because it’s not just reading for fun, you’re RESEARCHING. It has a purpose.
Want to write about archery? Well, that’s an excuse to go to your local archery range and pick up a new hobby for a while. Need a character to be a private pilot? Well, now I need to take some flight lessons. Because, you know, research. The possibilities are endless, and it gives me a chance to expand my narrow collection of knowledge.
3) Characters. I’m an anti-social, introverted grump who would rather sit on my computer writing and complaining all day than go out and talk to real people. Maybe you figured that out by now. Think that sounds lonely? You think I get bored with only a couple of real, live people to talk to every day?
NO, sir. Because I have all these characters in my head. They’re all so interesting, and I learn new things about each of them every day. I know them almost as well as I know myself. Better, in some cases. I know what they’d do in situations where I might not know what I’d do.
And the entire idea of creating characters is so fascinating. You can spend years getting to know your characters well. You can spend a lifetime. And at the end of all that time, you know them like you know yourself, but they don’t even know you exist. In their world, you don’t.
4) The challenge. I’m not a lover of challenges. I don’t hear someone say I can’t do something and go, “Oh yeah? Wanna bet?” I say “maybe you’re right” and make the decision to proceed or not on my own. I don’t need to prove that I can do stuff. I don’t need to take on things that are too hard for me simply to make a point.
Writing is one challenge I want. I want it because I feel like it’s something I can do well. I can get better, I can finish a book, I can get a few people to like it. Maybe I’ll never get anything published, but that isn’t the point. The point is to finish something that I like, that I’m proud of. Right now my story is a mix of stuff that I think is so amazing I can’t believe it came out of my tiny little brain, and stuff that I’m embarrassed I wrote. Stuff that sucks. Stuff I never want anyone else to read.
Well, maybe it’s not that bad anymore. The rewriting process is helping. But it WAS that bad. First drafts are terrible. When I go back and read through them, they make me feel like an immature child who doesn’t understand how words are supposed to go together in a sentence, who doesn’t understand complex emotions or ideas, who doesn’t get that people react to things in certain ways and that the character they have shouting at someone and punching them wouldn’t actually do either of those things.
The challenge is to take what’s bad and make it good. To take what’s shallow and make it mean more. To take a character who is behaving erratically even though you don’t want him to and learn about him and understand him so you don’t write him doing something vastly out of character. Which leads me to the last reason I like writing that I can currently think of.
5) It makes me examine what’s in my head. Thoughts come into my head. I don’t know if this is normal for writers, but at any moment, if my mind is not actively focused on something else, I’m planning a story in my head. Maybe it’s fiction, maybe I’m imagining a conversation I could have with someone, maybe it’s rewriting a conversation I already had. Whatever. Mostly, it’s planning fiction.
Regardless of what it is, my mind never stops writing stories. Never. Even when I quit physically writing during school, I continued planning stories, to the extreme that when I started writing again, I was able to start 5 different stories and get pretty far into them just from the planning I’d done during the time off. With no new ideas. Which means that even when I stop writing, I don’t really stop writing.
I don’t know what I think about a lot of things. I’m undecided on morals and beliefs like anyone else. So I can take those questions and put them into the form of a story, and create an argument between characters about those morals and beliefs. Sometimes, when I write about someone else thinking about something for long enough, I figure it out for myself, too. It’s not just a way to learn about new things, it’s a way to learn about me. As a person and an author. And a student. And anything else.
Anyway, I know I put up a rant yesterday. I was all worked up. Normally I don’t post two posts so close together, but I thought it might be good to get this one out while it was in my head. Knowing me, if I waited to do it I’d just forget all about it.