Sounds like I’m trying to emulate George Orwell, right? The question is one many writers ask themselves, and are asked in turn. Why do we write? For fame, fortune, and prestige? Ha! Keep on dreaming (which is what we do anyhow…).
Personally, the reason I write is because it’s in me. I have to write. There’s no gun pointed at my head, no deadline I have to meet – but it’s still something I have to do. L.M. Montgomery in her “Emily” books described the feeling as the “itch to write”. That description resonates with me.
When I was in grade school (around nine years old) I first discovered how easy it was to write a fictional story. Words flowed and I fell into another world, lost between my own pages. Of course, all of the stories back then were junk – but they were mine and I loved the process. Some of my stories ended up in the school newsletter, which made me exceedingly proud.
Then one day, around Halloween, I wrote a story and really let my imagination run wild. There were many thunderstorms, ghosts, murders – and as all good Halloween stories should end (or so I thought) everyone died at the end.
Now I think back on it, and I realize why my teacher pulled me out of class and had a concerned “Is everything okay at home?” talk with me. At the time though, it crushed me. Killed my desire to write or to let my imagination go wild, because it was wrong and it would get me into trouble. (I was a toe the line kinda kid) So I stopped writing.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a post about why I write unless I picked it back up again at some point. Around twelve I started writing again. I’d run out of my favorite books to read, so I wrote my own. They were a very thinly veiled mix of the Adventure Series by Enid Blyton crossed with a bit of the Trixie Belden mystery stories. Of course, they were crap too, but this time I wrote “books”, lovingly handwritten and then painstakingly typewritten.
In my teens, I discovered a few books that changed my life: I fell into the trap of R.L. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and then even deeper into “Kidnapped”. I read British, Russian, French, and American classics voraciously. My writing branched out from fan fiction to literary. I’d start a first chapter and then leave it. Creating the world was enough to satisfy the “itch”, but I had no staying power to finish it. I had no real interest in the stories I was trying to tell.
Life became busy and again I stopped writing. This time I stopped reading – and not just for a little while, but for years. When I finally picked up a book again, I didn’t want something super heavy, so I picked up “The Hunger Games” (ironic, eh?)… and read it in a night. From there, my love of YA took off – as did the passion for futuristic, dystopian-era type novels. Something about the “what if” scenario appealed to me on a deep level and caught my interest in a way that nothing had before. On a snowy day into work an idea came to me, and from there my first true novel came to be.
So for me, I write because I have an itch that needs to be scratched – an anxious, ticklish pressure in my chest that’s only relieved by creating worlds I’ll never experience and scenarios I’ll never have to deal with (or want to, really). I write for my own sanity (and those around me). Anything else is just gravy.