Monday, July 9, 2007

Why I Write

I've been a writer for as long as I can remember, and despite some dry spells, it really has become who I am. I don't feel complete if a pen and paper is not within reach--something I've come to understand over the past couple of months.

Here's my writing story:

I wrote my first poem in 5th grade. (There's no paper copy of it--it's all in my head.) I wrote my first "novel" (It was actually a short story, and it was really, really, really bad) in my early teens.

In college, I wrote mostly poetry (and two short stories--funny that I actually remember how many). I was even chosen (along with Serena) to read one of my poems at the Sigma Tau Delta conference in St. Louis in 1999. I channeled all of my depression into my poetry. I always joked that I'd be one of those drunk or suicidal poets (i.e. Sylvia Plath), but it wouldn't matter because I'd be pathetic and alone anyway. No one would miss me, and Serena would publish my works posthumously.

I stopped writing in August 2001. I remember this time well, because Serena moved away and she and I spent a lot of time emailing poems and comments and revisions back and forth. I like to say I quit poetry because I wasn't depressed anymore. (Getting married and having a child will do that to a person, you know.) But it was more than that. The words simply stopped coming.

I wasn't a great poet by any stretch of the imagination, and out of the 25 or so poems I'll actually admit to writing, maybe only one is good enough for publication. I gave poetry up for good because it wasn't fun anymore. Sitting with pen poised above blank paper night after night drove me batty. I used to see so much inspiration in the world around me, and it all dried up real quick. (As part of a writer's group Serena and I formed with a couple of our co-workers, I recently dragged a poem out of retirement, mainly because I had nothing else to share. They made comments, and I went home with good intentions of revising it. Didn't work. It still wasn't any fun.)

After I gave up poetry, I didn't write for a long time. A couple of years, in fact, though a lot of planning was going on inside my head. Once I started writing again (I viewed it as an extended vacation of sorts), I told myself I'd take a stab at a REAL novel this time.

Characters, plots, subplots were taking shape in my head, and then I knew I HAD to write. It's become sort of like breathing. (Though I'd be lying if I said I no longer encountered nights where the notebook served more as a pillow than an endless stream of prose.)

There are so many things I want to do or say, but I cannot bring myself to do or say them. In reality, I cannot control the outcome. But when I'm writing, every single life on the page is under my control. During the months of creating these people, shaping their lives, I've come to know them, feel their joy and pain, know exactly what they are thinking at any given moment, and it's like they're real people.

When I know what's going to happen to them, it's hard to write the actual words and make it real. When a character dies, I die right along with her. When a character walks out, I'm going along for the ride. I can guarantee when I am finished with this novel, a labor of love for sure, I will be crying right along with them.

Any other writers (this means you, Serena!) want to share your stories? I'm all ears...

1 comment:

Serena said...

who me? I have no story I tell you. Perhaps I will write one on my blog, but that may not happen until wed. or later given the heavy event load this week, with harry potter preview and all.