Why do I write?
I’ve tried answering that question a number of times, but each time I do, I feel like my answer misses the mark. Here are some examples:
- I just have to.
- To be a good example for my daughter.
- I always wanted to.
- To fulfill the desires I had as a kid.
- Because I create.
All of those feel right, but they all fail as well. I don’t know why.
There are days when I sit down to write, but for the life of me, I just can’t find the willpower to do it. I have ADHD, sure, but the meds don’t help me with this particular issue either. So what is it? I feel like if I knew my ‘why,’ it would help me get over this horrible push back, this resistance that forms somewhere in my gut and pushes me out of my chair to do literally anything else.
So what is my ‘why’?
I am a creator.
I am and have always been a creative type. When I was a kid I would draw. It was natural. Dinosaurs were an early love, then Godzilla, and eventually dragons. Reptilian-like creatures have a soft spot in my heart for some reason, but hey, dinosaurs, Godzilla, and dragons are really cool.
As I got older I would make things. I would take art that I loved from magazines, cut them out, and put them on my walls. I had things from a vodka ad where polar bears pulled a sled to Chester Cheetah stuck on my wall. I took my father’s tools and a slat from under my bed and made a sword. I used string and metal to make bolas. I enjoyed the wonder and possibility contained in these things and what they represented.
When playing with my action figures became less interesting as I grew older (maybe too old for some), I made dioramas with them. I put them in dramatic poses fighting one and another. The wizards I hung from a string from my ceiling since they could fly. Man, I wish I still had those figures.
When I moved into playing more and more Dungeons and Dragons as a kid, no one really wanted to run the games other than me. It felt like a natural calling to me though. Premade modules were where I started, but I was soon creating my own adventures. I wasn’t drawn to the stories behind the adventures at first, not for many years in fact due to my poor reading level and hatred of English class. I wanted to create interesting combinations of monsters, dungeons, and treasure. This really stirred my imagination.
It was only after I found that there were actually books that I enjoyed reading, that my skill with reading, English as a language, and storytelling began to develop. Unfortunately, this wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school. The sheer number of things I read in the next three years catapulted my language skills, but I only near the end of my high school career did I even begin to imagine storytelling as a possible future career. When I did, I was basically told I wouldn’t be able to hang with it, and in all honesty at that time with my undiagnosed ADHD (because it was not even a thing back then) and my short but frequent bouts of depression, I would have been as unable to hang with it as I was unable to hang with the architecture degree that I attempted.
I once drew a comic strip called “The Hillbilly Surf Gods.” It was fun. I could draw things that weren’t super complicated and write little short jokes and people enjoyed them. It was the ADHD that killed that, however. As soon as I started thinking that I might actually do something with my cartooning, it became more of a job and less of any enjoyment. So that fell away too.
I continued to play
I am an attention whore
I am the fifth of six children, and I fucking love attention. I guess I was the baby for seven years until my little sister, the brat, came along, so I was probably the center of attention for a long time. Until I wasn’t. That probably had an impact. I also grew up a northern Catholic in a southern Baptist town. So while I craved attention, I had few opportunities to make friends to either give it to me or break me out of needing it. That’s probably why I became the jokester in our family – as a means of garnering attention.
I think ADHD also played a significant role in my road to becoming an attention whore. Getting attention from people is a little thrilling which is the kind of stimulation that people with ADHD lack. The stimulation makes us feel normal (or in my case ‘more normal,’ amiright fam?) This is also probably why I have made so many really bad and/or inappropriate jokes over my life. I often wonder how many people have I alienated because of my need to make any kind of impression possible. Man, ADHD sucks. What could I have done if I’d had a normal life up until now?
When I write, I get a little thrill when people tell me I did something they liked. I think I get a little thrill when they tell me they didn’t like it too. Only if I bore them do I feel like I’ve failed. Similarly, when I create something and people tell me they like it or that they can see I’m improving, I get a little thrill.
I start more conversations and insert myself into more conversations than I should. I really like the idea of sitting alone and not talking to anyone, but I think my craving the attention of others makes me want to insert myself. That really sucks to realize. I don’t think I would like me if I weren’t me, but I have a lot of friends that seem to like me so maybe I’m doing something right.
Getting the cold shoulder from someone is killer to me. I’d rather be yelled at or hit than for someone to just stop talking to me. All because of something I likely could not control. Mix in the depression I’d been going through a few years back and I can easily see me not being the kind of person someone would want to hang around with.
What is best in life, Conan?
For me, leaving something better than one finds it, is best in life. I try to smile a lot, because as my father used to say, “Smiles are contagious.” It costs nothing, but the impact a smile can have one someone else’s life can be significant. I can’t smile in the things I create. I can’t smile in my writing. But if I can leave a person happier for the time they have spent with my creations, then I have left them better than when I found them. I don’t think this is why I write, but I do think it is why I write the things I do write and how I write them. I want to entertain. I write to create. I write to get the beautiful attention. I write to entertain.
I cannot say that I write to make my characters’ lives better if not anyone else’s life better, because I do some bad stuff to some characters. I make them experience the feels hardcore. (I think that’s how the kids talk these days.) I don’t necessarily leave my main characters better off at the end of their journeys than I have them starting out, but I’m not writing for the characters.
Who am I writing for then?
I wonder if this is a valuable question. I mean I’m writing for me. If so, why do I desire to publish? Is it only for the attention whore in me, or do I have another reason? Will sales translate into validation? If so, then would I not be better off writing for the audience than writing for myself? Or is there some middle ground where I get to write what interests me and find an audience that is also interested in it as well? That seems like a really good way to remain undiscovered and lacking a real audience if you ask me. Luckily no one has yet asked me, but is the question of who relevant to the why? I don’t know. Not yet.
Is there more?
I often tell people that I don’t want to say anything special with my writing. I don’t want to teach anyone anything. And that is mostly true. If I could teach anyone anything, it would to be happier and to be more grateful. I would teach people to love and forgive. I would teach people that mistakes are natural, and not only are you going to make them, and make a lot of them, but other people are going to make them too. We can’t hold ourselves to an impossible standard, but neither should we hold others to standards that may be impossible for them at this time. Maybe my characters and the plots they encounter will eventually show a pattern of such things, but more than anything else, I hope that I entertain people.
Is it bad that I would like everyone in America to be just a little happier? Is it bad that I would gladly accept a single dollar bill for that little bit of happiness from each person? 😉
So, why do I write?
I write because I must. I must create. I must share. I write because I want the validation of people I don’t know. I write because I’m an attention whore. I write to hopefully make the world a little bit better than it was before people became aware of my work, and I write because it interests me.
I don’t know if I have a clear and single ‘why’?
I write because I’m a writer. Does there need to be more to it than that?
© 2019, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.