Monday, April 16, 2012

On My Writing Manifesto; What Started You Writing? Why Do You Keep Doing It?

It's one of those things that writers don't tend to think about much.  I never used to, anyway.  Was too inside the "belly of the beast", in some ways, too busy pushing the pen further along the page to sit back and analyze WHY I continue to do what I do.

But in the last year or so, as I've confronted and accepted the path my career has taken, as I've accepted my writing pace and struggled with this whole "self-publishing vs. legacy publishing" rap, it's something that I've pondered A LOT.  

Because, well....WHY? Why continue doing something, even as more and more roadblocks seem to rear their heads and bar the way? As frustrations continue to mount, setbacks are endured, confidence flags and friends ...colleagues...drop away....




WHY?

WHY CONTINUE WRITING? AND WHY CONTINUE AIMING AT A PROFESSIONAL WRITING CAREER?

And, even though I've thought about this and have mused and struggled and ranted and repeated myself and then contradicted myself here on this blog, I'm not sure I've ever articulated why it is I continue.   Last night, I got the chance to.  A former student - and future writer - asked for some help with a college assignment, and ironically enough, I think her asking me for help helped me, also.  

She's been working on a final project on arts advocacy for her Arts Administration class.  She asked if I'd be able to write a paragraph or two explaining what first made me want to be a professional writer and what keeps me "writing in spite of the challenges and frustrations that seem to be unique to the pursuit of an artistic career."

And this is what I came up with.  I like it so much, I'll probably add it to my bio.  But in any case, here's what I produced last night - my Writing Manifesto, if you will: 

I wrote my first story in 8th grade. Can't remember about what exactly, except it was to appear in the first issue of our “8th Grade Newspaper”. Neither materialized – I mean, we were 8th graders, after all – but that's when I first realized writing fiction met an important need inside (though I could hardly have articulated it then). 

I played around the next few years, crafting half-stories and descriptions, finally writing my first “novel” in a Mead spiral notebook my senior year. Something about a high school senior leading his basketball team to the state championships and winning back his ex-girlfriend, nothing of which had ANYTHING to do with my life at the time. At all.

There's lots I could say about why I aim to write professionally. Why I persist in the face of a public that reads less than ever, despite a turbulent publishing industry, despite the conflicts inherent in melding ART with BUSINESS. But the bottom line is: I discovered something inside when I wrote that first “novel” that could only be satisfied by telling a story. In writing. Several nights in a row, literally hiding under my covers writing by flashlight, drunk on the idea that I was making something that maybe people would read. 

And that right there is it. 

Yes, there's more. Like getting paid. Self-Publishing versus Legacy Publishing. Ebooks vs. Print. Writing for a living, or part time. But none of this would matter if I hadn't discovered that I needed to write, and I needed to be read. None of the frustrations would be worth it, if I hadn't ever discovered I needed to write stories, regardless of whether or not I'd ever make a living writing them; but rather, the flip-side – I could never imagine truly living not writing them.

And there, as they say, is it. My Writing Manifesto. Probably the best definition I've yet to come up with as to why it is I do what I do. 

So - and you? When did the writing bug first bite you? Was it a specific instance, like mine? Do you have a clear memory? Or was it just something you found yourself gradually doing more and more of?  Share....