Why Do You Write?


Today I am blogging in response to Jessica Brooks’ question, posed on her blog, My Thoughts Exactly, on February 28:

“Q for you — What made you start writing? Was it a story that popped into your head one day? Or something that gradually morphed into an idea? I’d love to hear about it!”

This is a complicated question. With a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is: I have always been a writer.

I can remember constructing stories in my mind for as long as I have memory. Then in middle school and high school I wrote first in diaries and then all through college in journals. Poetry, short stories, and about my life. Everything and everyone was fair game. In those days I didn’t have a whole lot of sense about what I wrote and how I revealed myself in my writing, so thank goodness it was before the age of blogging, or I might not have any friends or family that would still be willing to speak to me.

College

In college—even though I started out in geology, changed over to anthropology, then biology, and finally journalism—I was always “that guy” who had comments like: “I really like your voice.” or “Wow, you’re a great writer.” That doesn’t mean I always got an A. I didn’t.

That’s because most of the time papers were written toe to deadline. That’s how I like(d) it best. It wasn’t until journalism that I hit my stride, and I figured out that there was a place for writers like me, and I learned how to control my writing and the accompanying deadlines. And I learned how to manage my writer’s mind.

The truth is I’m always writing in my mind. When I finally sit down for butt-in-the-chair-time (thank you Professor Drechsel for teaching me the importance of that), I’ve written the bulk in my mind. No matter if it’s fiction or an article or even a 400-page technical manual—it’s there.

The Zone

And then there’s the zone. Hitting the writing zone where everything else falls away, it’s just me and pen-to-paper or nowadays fingers-on-keyboard. So strong the concentration that when I’m done, sit back and look, it’s almost like a foreign language to me. Sometimes it feels like an out of body experience—did I really write this?

That doesn’t mean it’s always good, but I get it down, and it’s a place to start editing. (Another blog….my editing mind.)

Technical Writing

Most of my professional writing has been business and technical, a writer for hire. Someone asked me recently how I could write about technical things that I don’t develop or know inside-out, that I’m not an expert on. The answer is I don’t know, but I can. I think you’d get the same answer from almost any technical writer you’d ask….or at least the honest ones.

Fiction

Where do I come up with stories? I mean, the business or technical writing (after scrounging up clients) is easy. I write what they want.

But what about fiction? I have way too many ideas.

Almost every person I meet, experience I have, something I witness, a conversation I overhear—my first reaction is: how would I write this? It’s my nature of being an observer, a deep-seated remnant of my childhood, of feelings unheard, of not being acknowledged (this will never be a blog, but may be in fiction). Sometimes writing a scene in my mind helps distance myself from a situation when it becomes too intense.

As for my current works in progress: the middle-grade fiction is based on a gift from a grandparent and the bad luck it ensued; the adult novel is based on the feeling of never fitting in; the non-fiction is based on my love of cooking; the young adult is based on my coming-of-age experiences living in Africa. There’s more…there’s always more.

Blogging

One of the reasons I started blogging was to keep on writing every day, to give myself that deadline I like to nudge up against. The bonus? That someone may read what I write! That I’ll meet other writers?! That I will reach outside my usually-solitary world.

And that’s the short answer. Stick around and you might hear the long.

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Nice to meet you! Thanks for reading my blog! Here’s my question for you: What makes you write? Is it something you chose to do? Or is it just what you do? Do you enjoy it or not so much? I am so interested to hear!

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Very interesting, Julia! I enjoyed reading about how you became a writer. You’re working on four books now? That’s great!

    For me, it took me a long time to realize that I wanted to be a writer. I never was good at fiction, and being so shy, I struggled with journalism. So I worked in the nonprofit sector, where I volunteered for writing assignments whenever I could. Then, in my late-20s, I became more comfortable with interviewing people. (Finally!)

    And I absolutely HATE starting first drafts. But I love the revision process, when the words start to come together.

  2. Thanks for your comment–glad you enjoyed my walk down memory lane! Isn’t working in the nonprofit sector great? Some of my most rewarding work has been for nonprofits, too. Also, I think we’d make a really great writing team since I LOVE interviewing people and LOVE writing first drafts! (And I’m not so crazy about the revision process!)