Not the tactical, logical, left-brain reason; but the deep down, can’t-ignore-this-thing, totally irrational reason.
Perhaps you don’t need to know why you write. Maybe you are content to take direction from your muse without questioning her motives. You may find exploration of the driving forces behind your work irrelevant.
That’s your prerogative, BUT …
If you unearth the underlying energy that fuels your need to put words down, you can harness that power to infuse your writing with more passion and purpose. Understanding why you are compelled to pick up a pen or set your fingers racing across the keyboard can bring you a higher level of clarity and confidence. It can help you define and prioritize your writing. It can give you direction.
I have often wondered about the “why” behind my own urge to write. I’ve constructed several hypotheses, but have never found the answer that settled into place with a satisfactory ‘click.’
I found my click in Letters to a Young Novelist – a slim tome that had crossed my radar a few times, but never piqued my interest enough to prompt a purchase. Instead, it languished on my Amazon Wishlist as a possible future read. However, while Christmas shopping at my favorite indie bookstore, a paperback copy of this unassuming little book found its way into my stack of gifts. It was the last copy, and it was on sale. Merry Christmas to me.
In the days following the holiday chaos, I managed to carve out a few hours of peaceful solitude. Curling up on my couch with a mug of herbal tea and the twinkling tree lights for company, I began to read. As you might imagine, Letters to a Young Novelist is written as a series of letters from a fictional author to an aspiring young novelist. Mario Vargas Llosa’s imagined correspondence attempts to convey the inner workings of the literary novel, imparting wisdom one idea and one letter at a time. The various concepts are illustrated by a great many examples (many of which, I must admit, flew high over my head).
There are many gems to be mined from Letters, but it was this passage that made me say, “Oh!” out loud.
What is the origin of this early inclination, the source of the literary vocation, for inventing beings and stories? The answer, I think, is rebellion. I’m convinced that those who immerse themselves in the lucubration of lives different from their own demonstrate indirectly their rejection and criticism of life as it is, of the real world, and manifest their desire to substitute for it the creations of their imaginations and dreams.
I had never thought about it that way, but when I did it made perfect sense. Llosa writes about a “basic questioning of reality.” I’ve always felt that one of the reasons I write is to figure things out, to learn. I’ve always known that insatiable curiosity is a must-have attribute for any writer, but I’d never made the connection between curious questioning and its obvious counterpart – an inability to accept things as they are.
Looking at my writing – both already penned and as yet unwritten – in the context of this idea, it was suddenly easy to pick out the recurring themes that threaded themselves through my story ideas. Likewise, a quick survey of the books nestled in my many bookcases revealed similarly obvious patterns. Eureka – I have found it!
As you embark on a new year of writing, let me ask you this: Do you know what your writing rebellion is about?