I met Margaret Mizushima last fall at Bouchercon and we had a delightful chat about how lovely it is to have supportive husbands (hers was helping her that day). Then we gently teased him as a member of the Long-Suffering Spouses Club, a term coined by my husband, who has trailed after me to any number of events. Margaret is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 Series and she offered to write about the why of it all.
I once heard a story at a writers’ conference that might provide an answer as to why we writers are compelled to write. Although I can’t recall who told the story, it has stayed with me for over a decade. Here it is:
Once upon a time, a writer died and met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. The good saint told the writer that he wanted to show her a view of heaven and of hell before he sent her on her way. The first stop was hell. She entered a room filled with row upon row of desks where writers were hunched over computers. Whips cracked overhead, mugs of steaming hot coffee spilled, splashing onto keyboards making them hiss and sizzle. Writers tore at their hair and stared at blank screens with tortured expressions on their faces.
The poor writer was appalled, thinking hell looked a lot like her own office. She shuddered and asked if she could get a glimpse of heaven.
St. Peter led her to the next room. There sat row upon row of desks where writers were hunched over computers. Whips cracked overhead, and mugs of steaming hot coffee spilled, splashing onto keyboards making them hiss and sizzle. Writers tore at their hair and stared at blanks screens, tortured expressions on their faces.
The writer gasped. “But this looks exactly like hell.”
St. Peter smiled. “Ah, but you see…these writers are published.”
So is getting published the answer to why we write? I thing the answer isn’t that simple, because many of us journal everyday, never expecting or wanting to share our words with anyone. Sometimes writing in a journal merely clears our heads; it’s therapeutic. Or we might write for a small group of family or close friends, such as when we want to share our memoirs or a cookbook of family recipes.
But overall, I would guess that most of us write because we have thoughts we want to share with others, including the public. For me, I write because I want to tell stories that entertain people, to give them a get-away from their daily routine or respite from the stresses of everyday living.
I write the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, which feature Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. I like to weave a suspenseful mystery around themes that are important to me: family, the animal-human bond, relationships, and social issues. I love my characters and the story world they live in, and the messages included in each episode continue to motivate me, even when the writing gets hard.
Hemmingway once said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It’s true—writing can be an arduous and lonely activity. Writers sit behind closed doors, alone at coffee shops, in office cubicles, or in other isolated places every day. Whether we’re driven to record our thoughts, inspired to share our ideas, or motivated to entertain others, it’s important to know the reason why we write. That reason can propel us through that tough first draft and keep us going through all the revisions that come afterward.
No matter what your reason…if you’re inspired to write, do it. Give yourself permission to write that awful first draft. Take writing classes or attend conferences. Seek out like-minded friends to form a critique group and to mingle with for encouragement.
Years ago, I pinned a quote on the wall beside my desk that has helped me through many rough times with my writing, and I hope it will help you as well. “Whatever you can do or dream you