Why do you write?
It’s a simple question right? I mean, why write? Why spend the amount of time and energy and resources it takes to do this? Why subject yourself to judgement and rejection and criticism? Why?
I don’t know why I do it. I don’t know why I spend so much of my time inside my own head, inside my own world, why I lie in bed plotting, hearing conversations, making my characters live in my imagination, why I sometimes can’t concentrate at my pay job because I am lost in my story, why I am distracted when people are talking to me, why I sometimes can’t remember appointments or errands because I’m lost in the flood of words. I don’t understand why at all. I just know that I always have. It is a part of me that I have never been able to excise, have never been able to burn out with various poisons. Even at my worst, even when I pushed everyone away, the writing has stayed. I have always written, when I was young and fast and dumb, when I was an emotionally wasted wreck. Even now, when time slips away so fast and my children grow up before my eyes and my hair turns grey and the days bleed into one another, even now I write, sitting at this keyboard at midnight after a long day, even now, when I need to sleep, even now I write, because that is what I do. Because I am a writer.
The writing is partly about control. I can make the world behave the way I want it to, in a way that makes sense, in a way that seems to follow some kind of prescribed path. I get to offer resolution, a nice bow to wrap events in, in a way that the real world can’t. If I allow it, my characters get to say all the right lines at the right times, they have the comeback, the witty retort. I can define who is the bad guy, who is the good guy, assign them their respective hats, and make them dance accordingly. The abuser is bad, the child innocent, everything falls into polite little boxes. In our writing we get to play make-believe and display our creations, we get to pretend that there is really justice, that there is really order, that there is any real resolution.
It’s also about fear. I get to write about things that I am afraid of. I get to explore things that would destroy me in my life. What if I lost everything? What then? What if it was me that did it, what if I was the monster that I have feared all along? What if I was helpless, what if I was dying? What would it be like if I was hurt or sick or irrevocably damaged? What if my wife is lying when she tells me she loves me? What if I lost control? And it’s so safe here in the black and white, it’s so safe here in my cozy chair with the crickets chirping outside my window and my children and wife sleeping in the next room, it’s safe here to open the closets and lift the bed and let all the monsters out, to make them show me their teeth and claws, it’s safe here in the black and white, because I’m pulling the strings, and I can put all the monsters back under the bed when I am done playing with them.
It’s about showing off, too. I know the lie; we all write for ourselves, right? But if that were completely true, we wouldn’t need an audience would we? Someone not liking our stuff wouldn’t hurt our feelings, wouldn’t damage our oh-so-fragile self worth, would it? Really, if I am being honest, and I try my damnedest to be honest in my writing, even if it seems threatening, if I am being honest, there is a Hey Mom No Hands element there too, a touch of Look at Me and See What I Can Do. Because I have talent and I know it; I make the words dance and flash in a way that most people can’t, and I want to show the world, I want to shout out my value, show that I’m different. Maybe you can draw better than I can, maybe you can salsa dance, or run, maybe you can speak in front of strangers, maybe you know what to do in an emergency, but I can do this, I can make people see pictures in their heads, I can make the words dance and flash... Hey Ma, no hands, hey everyone, look at me, look at what I can do. It is pathetic, it’s stupid and shameful, but yeah, I’m a show off. It comes back to fear, and a deep and unrelenting belief that I am not good enough, that I never will be. It is all a show. Look at me, love me, tell me how valuable I am, so maybe one day I will really believe it.
Some days it is all of these things, and some days it is none of them. The real truth is, I write because I like to. I write because it makes me feel good. It isn’t always great, it is hardly ever easy, and often it can be frustrating and a little awful, but at the end of the day I write because it is better for me than not writing.
Look at me.
If you want to contact me, comment here, or I am on Twitter @RDPullins, and I am on Facebook. My first novel, Antiartists, will be published in the spring of 2016 on Pen Name Publishing, and has it's own little Facebook page, too. Go and give it a like, if you wanna.