The Lure of the Page
What motivates you to write in the first place?
This was the question one of my twitter associates posed to me last week. It is a little like ‘why do you write’ with a subtle twist. His question asked me what actually compels me to the page.
The answer is different for everyone.
The Thrill of Escape and Control
When I wrote as a teenager it was the thrill of being taken out of my world and into another world I could not just get lost in but also control. What teenager wouldn’t willingly go somewhere they could have a Godlike presence over?
I’ve also come to understand and appreciate though what David Sedaris, humorist and essayist, has had to say on my teenage fantasies of deityhood, “Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.” Not only to people bring their own interpretation, the characters themselves bring their own story, one they are often precious about and I am the puppet rather than the puppetmaster.
I still love the feeling of taking a deep breath and stepping off the cliff of reality into the alternate world of fiction, and while I still do it partly to escape, it is now the thrill of being lead astray by my characters. It is the adventure I find there, which is often lacking in the four walls of suburbia, which draws me to the page. On a dull day at Number 26, amid lawn mowers wailing and the splash from the backyard pool, I could be invited to a coronation, a funeral or become the holder of a deadly secret. I could watch in as a first date goes pear shaped, pirates over run a fortress in Spain or the first human sets foot on an alien planet.
Voices in My Head
How can you possibly say no to writing when characters come to you with their stories? Novelist, E.L. Doctorow said,”Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Talk about hitting nail on the head! While it might be OK to talk about the voice/s in your head to other writers steer clear of sharing it with non-writing folk who look at you with a large dose of concern. Thus I love it when writers talk about the voices in their head.
For those who experience inner narration, they know there is no greater motivating force than the desire to go to the toilet, have a shower or sleep the whole night through without being pestered about a story. The only way to get peace is to write the story down.
The Need to Have My Say
The most recent motivator for me though, is best summed up in the words of biographer Catherine Drinker. “Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.”
As I get older, I seem to arrive at the page because I have something to say about the world around me. The something to say is a burning need, full of passion and a healthy dose outrage. Fiction is my vehicle not just to purge or rant and but to enlist my own brand of propaganda. This has become most apparent after my involvement in the Fourth Fiction competition (where there really was the strangest and most beautiful sort of double living going on) and the almost finished novella which came out of it. Every newspaper article about government, bureaucratic and medical meddling in homebirth and interference with women’s’ bodies now strengthens my resolve to finish my novella and gives me fodder for another installment.
Lastly there is the dangling carrot of publication – the thrill of seeing my work in print, of it being read beyond my own small circle of family, friends and online acquaintances and the potential for being paid. In the past few months I have come to the page specifically to tell a story for publication. It is a strange but ultimately satisfying way to create, especially when driven by a tight deadline. In this space procrastination is not invited and I like that. Perhaps I really do work best under pressure? While one story has been published and I’m yet to hear about the other, it signals to me, my approach and the place writing has in my life has evolved. I’m in a new place, one I’m very excited to be exploring.
I wonder how I went years without writing now. Writing keeps me sane (another good reason to show up), happy and balanced. It is also horrendously frustrating at times, damn hard work and takes me away from my family. It’s a blessing to know the motivators continue to outweigh the other dark side.
So, what motivates you to write?
You can find more fun quotes about writing at Work not Magic: 20 Writers on Writing