Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why Write?

I've been  writing quite a bit lately. At least 30 - 60 minutes each day, which isn't bad when you consider that I have a day job and three young children. Why do I write? A recent Janet Reid blog was built around the message, "Keep writing, no matter what." I posted, "I often find myself writing, not because I want to, but because I have to. 99% of the time, I'm OK with that. But when I have to at 2:00 a.m....

And it's true. I do have to write, because the words are in my head, and I have to get them out. I can think of three recent examples, each with its own twist.

1. In my first post, I mentioned my book of interconnected short stories. I had been working pretty diligently on it. One day at work, I had a noon meeting. So at 11:45, I thought I should take a "necessity break." Standing there, two lines came to me:

And then came a revelation. No, make that THE revelation.

I really liked that, especially the "THE revelation" part, and didn't want to lose it. So I hurried back to my desk, grabbed my pen and trusty notebook, and wrote down those words. And more kept coming. And coming. At noon, the little pop-up said I had to dial in to my meeting. So I did. I went home that night and typed in what I had written. 350 words. 350 words that came flowing out of nowhere on the heels of two short sentences. So the words apparently were there. I just didn't realize it.

2. About a year ago, I read about a Chicago Tribune ghost story contest. It had to be under 700 words, and set in Chicago. Since we had recently published our book of short ghost stories, I thought, "Why not?" I've only been to Chicago once, to see my beloved Indians play the Cubs. That was a great time; but it's another story. So Wrigley Field probably was the only Chicago setting I could reasonably talk about. The deadline was approaching, and I hadn't written anything. I was lying in bed one night, and my mind started to work: some guy is having a bad day, he feels strange; he goes to Wrigley to watch a game; he's always wanted to catch a home run ball; dark clouds gather; then a ball starts heading his way; he puts out his arms to catch it and it passes right through him; a blowing newspaper stops by his feet; he sees his face and reads the headline, "Man pushed in front of El. Teens charged." Then I started to fill in other details: he was having a bad day, made worse by the punks at the train station, etc.  Finally around 1:00 a.m., I said to myself, "I might as well go write it. Otherwise I'll be thinking about it all night." So in that case, I worked over the words obsessively, and they forced me to get them out of my head.

3. On my far-away horizon is a series of thrillers that feature the same protagonist: an intrepid reporter. One of the story ideas that had been kicking around in my head for literally a year was his adventure in a certain well known legendary place that he stumbles upon. (Actually, he's kidnapped into it.) So one day I had some time, and decided to do a brain dump. One hour, 2,000 words! So in the final case, the words had been bumping around my brain, and I just decided to extract them.

That's why I write.

1 comment:

  1. The muse strikes at odd times, doesn't it? I keep a notebook in the nightstand so I can jot those middle of the night thoughts down before they run away and disappear for good.