Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Do Writers Write?

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there."Thomas Berger

I'm reminded of an old joke: Why did the author write her book? To get to the other side. *grin*

Of all the reasons we could have to write, the best and perhaps most authentic motivation must be an obsession with seeing 'what happens next.'

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."Albert Einstein

Fellow author, Sandra Marshall, recently shared her dismay about how a former boss had chided her for writing fiction. After all, fiction isn't real (so he said) and therefore, apparently, not as worthy as non-fiction. Excuse me while I snort in derision and roll my eyes.

"To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything."Anatole France

Imagination is what fuels progress. The greatest inventions, the most daring quests, and all of humanity's progress started within a tiny spark of imagination. Obviously, the world's panoramic vista of art began within the fervent dream of a artist yearning to create. However the practical aspects of our daily lives—from the light bulb to the lap top—exist due to someone's fertile imagination.

All artists face two equally daunting roadblocks at one point or another. First, there is pressure from the outside world. People may turn a cold shoulder or worse yet sneer at our dream. When I first decided to write a book, I penned a lovely romance between a hometown girl and the city boy who was her first love. This being my first venture, I naturally had qualms about my prose. At the time my journey had yet to sweep me into the world I now occupy—one that is chock-full of writers who share my dream and support my quest. So, naturally I turned to a good friend held in deep regard to read my fledging attempt and offer a critical eye. She seemed flattered and agreed. I then added that it would be most helpful if she read a couple of books in a similar vein so as to have a clear view of what I was aiming for. Her response shocked the hell out of me.

She shuddered.

Honest to Goddess, I couldn't believe it. Truth be told, I never quite looked at her the same way again.

Judgment by others is inevitable in every path you take. An author must stay strong and embrace her dream, whether she writes inspirational or erotica, suspense or satire, mysteries or thrillers. Trust in Your Dream and brook no objection.

"Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away."Tom Clancy

The other obstacle we must surpass comes from the pressure we put on ourselves. Fear, self-judgment, lack of motivation all may strike at one time or another. That is when we must rekindle our curiosity. Stir those embers and spark a yearning to 'get to the other side'. We mustn't wait for the lightning strike of inspiration to carve those letters for us nor hope others will encourage us along. There will be days when the fever of inspiration does lift our spirits and definitely times when our fellow authors will boost our spirits and lighten our hearts. However, we can't wait for the weather to be perfect or all conditions to be met. We must be determined to carry on. We must be self-motivated.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."Barack Obama

Now as I'm writing this the thought pops in my head, "Well, that's all well and good for you to say, but what if I don't know what comes next? What then, Ms. Smarty Pants?"

In my novel, Sidekicks, my 'wanna be leading lady' faced her own moment of freezing panic by thinking, Come on, are you a leading lady or what? *grin* So the question becomes a gauntlet tossed down by the very characters we create. This conflict, this fear, this obstacle that must be faced stirs up emotion, right? Excellent (she says, rubbing her hands together), WRITE IT DOWN. Keep writing through your funk, keep writing through your fear, because your heroes and heroines are tackling their own conflicts and Each And Every Conflict You Confront Will Be Reflected In Your Characters.

"My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them."Bono

This is where imagination wrestles with knowledge and wins hands down. You have no idea how the character will surmount her difficulties any more than you know how YOU will overcome your own dang obstacles.

The author stared at the page, wondering if she had it in her to write even one more sentence. The buzz of the lawnmower outside was a tangible reminder of the gorgeous Spring day and the errands waiting to be done. Which was greater, her fear the essay would really and truly suck this time or the burning desire to avoid continuing no matter what the cost?

*grin* Lack of motivation or fear? Tough call. Hmmm… Guess there's only one solution—Keep WRITING!

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good."William Faulkner

The friend I mentioned earlier also dismissed the very notion of this blog. Apparently in her lofty view, blogs were right up there with romances. At least over the phone I didn't have to see her shudder this time. Now, here I am coming up on two years—and yes, wondering if I have it in me to pen yet another essay. Hoping to inspire and motivate others and myself to keep pushing forward, to keep writing, to keep reaching for that dream.

"Staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that."Eartha Kitt

"Your regrets aren't what you did, but what you didn't do. So I take every opportunity."Cameron Diaz

Here's the wisdom I've garnered in my years of writing.

• You need a dream, to have a Dream Come True.

• Dreams Come True through persistence, patience and passion.

• Persist by choosing to write whenever you can, no matter what others say or the outside world demands.

• Be patient as every dream needs continual effort and a certain amount of time. No one knows when or how success will come to you, but if you keep moving forward, you will succeed.

• Passion is The Flame Within and the flame needs fuel! Seek motivation from other writers, classes or motivational essays. *smile* But remember this—True Passion Springs From The Desire To Know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

Why did the author write her book? To get to the other side.

"When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.' " –Neil Gaiman

Now, I'm curious. What wisdom have you garnered over the years? If you met an aspiring author today, what would you advise?

Ready to get writing? Let's hit the keys!

Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas!


Bobby said...

Great post Chiron. I've struggled for years with the idea of writing for an audience.

Ray Bradbury said, "I used to write for an audience, for what publishers wanted. And then I wrote 'The Lake', my best short story about a childhood memory. And that day, I became a real writer. I now write only for myself, what I love, and not for an audience."

That quote affected me because I don't know how to write for others. I will write what I love to write; it's up to others to like it or not. If they do like it, I will have done something right:)

Chiron said...

Hello Bobby!

What a great quote by Bradbury. So many writers, musicians, artists, and such, struggle with that expectation. Writers get slammed all the time with The Need To Be Marketable. Quite the dilemma.

Ironically, I've had people assume my decision to not write a certain way meant I was either afraid or simply reluctant to step outside of my comfort zone. In reality (a fine place to visit), the decision to write for myself actually was a step outside of my comfort zone and my need to 'fit in'.

We're on the same page (so to speak *grin*) about not writing for others. The only audience I can truly count on is myself, after all.

Thanks for stopping by and adding a comment. I love that quote!

Chiron O'Keefe

Sandy said...

Thanks for the quote from NeilGaiman, Chiron. That's exactly the way it is at my house. lol Except, I have to throw in my husband, too.

Great post.


Julie Jennings said...

Hi Chiron,

This blog really hits at the heart of the matter. Love how you compare creativity to inventions. Without imagination, gosh where would we be?

There are always the naysayers in any group. It is up to us to actively do what we love and what lives within our soul.

I have to agree that many people try so hard to fit into the "publishing hole" whereas as you said writing for yourself is the best of all.

I couldn't stop writing even if I was paid too. Loved how you showed motivation with several quotes.

Think I should put a few on my desk as gentle reminders.

elaine cantrell said...

Thanks for your post, Chiron. As usual you have something good to say!

Tiffany James said...


Summer vacation just started...Three kids home...


Don't get me wrong, I love being with my kids, but I also love to write.

Persistence, patience, passion. That will be my mantra! As will "write whenever you can". I'm so blessed to have two to three days to write during the school year. Now I need to just write whenever I can and keep asking, "What happens next?".

What would I tell an aspiring author? I'd give them a link to your essays! :0)

Thank you for reminding me to adjust while still keeping my dream alive.


Chiron said...

Hi Sandy!

That quote by Neil is really a hoot, isn't it? *grin* Ah, the life of a writer.

Thanks for stopping by!


Chiron said...

Hello Julie!

You're so right. The choice is always ours, to give in to defeat or push on towards success. *nods* Those inventions wouldn't be here without some serious dedication! And neither would my very favorite books. I'm grateful to every author who kept writing through the slumps and the challenges.

The key is always to write what you love, eh?

Thanks so much for your kind words!! I'm so glad the quotes rang true as well.

Smiles to you!

Chiron said...


Thanks so very much! I appreciate your kind words. Bless you, my dear!


Chiron said...

Ah, Tiffany, yes, the blessings and challenges of summer vacation.

*grin* Those days you sneak a page or two in will lead to nights that glow. You are a writer, my dear, and the stories will always be knocking at your inner door. *wink*

As for your advice to aspiring writers, your compliment knocked me for a loop!! Wow. Thanks a million times over. You just made my day... er... night!!

Here I am glowing. *grin*

Smiles to you!

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Anonymous said...

I agree with you