Why we write
There are days (okay weeks and maybe even months) when all I seem able to do is wallow around in the "if only" ocean, usually after a rejection to a book that I felt was a personal best at that time and was unable to find an editor who loved it enough to champion its cause. And so I wallow for a while and wonder why I bother. And sometimes I try to quit, to think about a life without writing, and the pain I get in my gut at such thought feels worse than I imagine any heart attack would feel. I think I've finally reached the point where I just accept that writing isn't just what I do, it's who I am. The good and the bad is all mixed up and I can't quit even when the market is constantly shrinking and the readers seem unable to find us and when even great editors are choosing to spend their money on advances to celebrity authors instead of on the rest of us.
Sometimes I write to learn about myself and how I feel about things. Sometimes I write in order to hide from who I am, who I think I am, or who I am afraid of becoming. But mostly I write because writing defines me. When I'm not writing, when I'm not in the midst of a project of some kind or another, I don't feel like I really exist. I can walk through the dayjob and do all the right things but it doesn't define me. It's just a job. But when the words race out my fingers and across the screen it's like flipping the switch on Frankenstein's monster and I'm alive.
Now I am trying to be more focused on building a career but I have to admit that it's hard because I love doing it all. (Okay, not so much loving the school visits but I love to speak.) I love writing articles and picture book and novels. I love dreaming up ways to publicize myself and my books. Right now is the most writerly time I can remember thus far in my career. Two books coming out in the next 18 months. Working on revisions for another book. Writing a NF book with a friend. And interest on my photography book about reading. I am immersed in writing activities right now in a way I've never experienced before. And I'm loving it. And feeling more alive and more aligned in my life than I have for quite some time. Now I know I'll have to go down the other side of euphoria hill pretty soon but I'm hoping the high of late will carry me for a while.
I'm sorry for all who doubt that it is worth the time and pain we invest in telling our stories. All I know for sure is that as a lonely, only, and misunderstood child books were the only place I felt safe enough to be myself. They taught me about other possibilities in life outside of what I was living and gave me dreams to work to make come true.
Books have saved me until I was strong enough to save myself.
And to every writer who has ever written something that I have read, I say thank you.
Write on, right now.