Why Do I Write?

write1Having just returned from making rather merry in Florida these past few days, my writing regiment dissipated and I remained topic-less for my weekly post.  The article below I wrote earlier this year as a guest post on a great literary website, Two Drops of Ink .  I urge you to visit the site for some inspirational material.

On with the show.

Why Do I Write?

I ask myself this question, often during periods of stagnant productivity, when my imagination vanishes into that creative void.  Writing is my outlet, a form of personal therapy, a conduit to understanding life.  From my earliest days, I garnered inspiration from books and films – the horror/paranormal genre predominantly, spurring my imagination and compelling me to write.  Ripe with unique ideas, obscure concepts, and non-traditional approaches to traditional storytelling, the right side of my brain flourished.  The challenge was getting my ideas down in a coherent, logical and timely manner – left sided brain stuff.

Successful authors exude discipline, commitment and determination.  They thrive on it. Something I lack.  While I’ll argue the masters are born with genius embedded in their DNA, those without creative genetic coding can achieve greatness, through passion and hard work, namely a ‘seat of the pants to the seat of the chair’ work ethic.

My struggle as a writer has been twofold – a dash of self-criticism and a dollop of procrastination.  I’ve never considered myself a particularly good writer.  Despite having written across several genres over many years – hundreds of thousands of words later, I still struggle with self-doubt.  Most writers do.  The sudden, often random onset of a self-critical episode is predictable to a degree, and while I’m not able to suspend the cycle, I’ve learned to mitigate my creative losses.  We all possess an internal editor, that voice that questions each word we write, compares our trite to the likes of Tolkien, Hemingway or Rowling, and reminds us that we’re really just kidding ourselves.

How does one overcome self-induced adversity?

By writing.  Sounds simple, but it isn’t.  Forcing yourself to write while treading water in a cesspool of self-criticism and persistent doubt, is challenging.  But commitment, desire, and the ability to forge ahead despite all else, often results in a surprising revival of creative flow.  Some of my most unique work, concepts I’ve never contemplated before, emerged during the throes of forced writing.  Comparable to hitting the runner’s wall, once you make it through the initial period of intense pain, the innovative spirit breaks free and soars.  The tactic, when successful, reignites lost passion, inspires, and more importantly jump starts the positive writing cycle.

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Over the years, positive and negative creative cycles came and went.  Dabbling in different genres, I switched gears back and forth, often on a whim, or based on a single story idea.  For a time I was consumed with screenwriting.  As a lover of film (who isn’t) the idea of creating a script, a medium where I controlled not just the story, but the direction, camera angles, even the soundtrack – was exhilarating.  For visual thinkers like myself, screenwriting opened up a marvelous forum for creation, allowing me to conceptualize every facet of my story.  Not that screenwriters wield this type of power in Hollywood.  Far from it, but writing a first draft in this manner, without constraint, opens up worlds of innovative potential.

I completed four scripts during my screenwriting tenure, three horror, one action, and while I never actively marketed my work, I learned a great deal about the craft, and more importantly, my writing improved.  Quantity has a way of doing that.

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Years later, after the birth of our daughter, I switched gears again, this time, focusing on children’s stories.  Plunging myself into the world of Dahl, Seuss and Munsch, I learned quickly that the genre, like most, was highly competitive, and the market over-saturated. I nevertheless remained focused and stayed the course for two years.  To my benefit, I was less critical of my work during this phase, enjoyed some success along the way, and wrote a great deal.  However, part of me craved traditional storytelling – horror storytelling in particular.

The switch back to screenwriting and short fiction was inevitable.  While I kept myself active for a period, regression soon set in.  Shuffling from piece to piece, I evolved into a writing ‘dabbler’, non-committal to any one project.    Frustration, procrastination and self-doubt returned. The negative cycle was back.

I avoided writing.  Household chores were top priority, the lawn immaculate, Netflix binge-watching in high gear.  Weeks turned into months.

Until the ultimatum.  I forced myself to write.

I began my Blog.

My commitment to blogging forced me into a writing regiment.   While my schedule is not aggressive, I post weekly, the process assured I was writing, revising and publishing, on a regular basis.  After the initial few months I found site stats and analytics were negatively affecting my motivation, but I kept at it, reminding myself it was the journey, not the destination I was after.  I regrouped, maintained focus, and continued to produce.  Seven months in, as I continue to work towards defining long-term goals, blogging remains an exceptional tool, a fresh creative outlet, and a coping mechanism against self-deprecation and procrastination.

I’ve grown accustomed to my turbulent relationship with writing.  I’ve come to expect the peaks and valleys, the conquests and failures, and the overall cycle of (a writer’s) life.

If it’s not a challenge, it’s not worth pursuing.

Until next time,

38 thoughts on “Why Do I Write?

  1. This piece has reminded me of when I first created my blog. If it wasn’t for a good friend & my daughter pushing me to share my thoughts & feelings, I don’t think I would have, as I still get nervous when posting a blog. As I think my posts really aren’t good enough. But the one thing I know is that, it has been like therapy to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well now that we have social media, you should start sharing you stories with us as well! It may bolster you to next level, publishing a novel … why not? We are here for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So you like writing horror stories Mike! Tell me have I missed any of your books too like I missed Adele’s book 1. I guess what you said in this blog post is what most struggling writers feel. But yes! Its like a therapy. Good one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers, no books, lots of beginnings, but no completions. Contemplating Nano November this year, we’ll see. I also read Adele’s first book just a few weeks back, very impressive read. Blogging certainly helps, but I still need to kick it into high gear on my other material. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The trouble is , every genre is oversaturated. And in the end (sorry, this has been said to death), we can only write for ourselves – something we would want to read. And if others like it too – that’s a bonus. I think every writer must suffer with self doubt. Overconfidence can’t be a positive trait. But you’re right. You can only keep on writing. Great post, Mike😊.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Adele. Yes, I can’t image ever being overconfident in this arena, regardless of the genre. I do believe the trick is to write for yourself, and hope an audience for you work reveals itself. We all share similar life experiences, but we don’t process them the same way, that’s where things change. Cheers again for commenting Adele!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How about using current events a a basis for a horror story? There should be no lack of material there – terrorism, mass shootings, political turmoil, refugees, Brexit, children in gorilla cages. Throw in a little supernatural hocus pocus and you’ve got yourself a blockbuster hit!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mike in my view the peaks and troughs are natural – I have read about many authors who too experience similar dry periods. You never know when and where you will get the inspiration for your next blog. Remember that Sir Issac Newton also discovered gravity while sitting under a tree. So mowing the lawn and doing the household chores should not bother you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. On procrastination I should join an anonymous group for lol. Just recently I had over 3 weeks writing get accidently deleted. So this week I sat around and sulked at my stupidity. Then I picked up the pen again and started anew,because if I try to recreate what I deleted it irks me and I can’t continue.anyways I enjoyed your article always good to know others share my bad habits l😊l.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you, even trying to recreate a single page of something I’d written and lost, never works for me. I’ve always had to start from scratch. And then I brood because it’s never quite as good as the original – at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
      Glad to hear you pulled yourself out of your temporary slump. Thanks for commenting! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. i like all your blogs…are you not wee bit or rather quite a bit self critical ???…works mostly…but allowing yourself to write as n when you want n enjoying it totally should be the key…i know the keywords like focus , discipline , needs are important but all comes about if you r enjoying the stuff…your blogs are nice and you did say you enjoyed writing them….:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a compete love / hate relationship. I think Dorothy Parker said it best, “I hate writing, I love having written”. Not quite that extreme, but sometimes feels that way. But I’m glad you’re along for the ride and cheers for commenting!

      Like

  9. I think those negative cycles, self doubts affects most of us, and it affects productivity. I am a newbie in the writing world, so I’ll be really excited to see how it all pans out. I really liked reading this. Thanks for sharing, and hoping you find great success in times to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I sooo understand this line, ” a dash of self-criticism and a dollop of procrastination.” For me procrastination is life, job changes, six children, things like that. Blogging has also been a way fro me to satisfy that deep voice that calls to be expressed. I enjoyed this post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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