The Number One Reason I Write Books

I write books. Why?

It is a reasonable question. I recently started participating in writer’s groups again and much about them has got me thinking.  A women well into her second novel told me of an acquaintance who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. Wow. Something to be in awe of, of course. My critique group-mate is also in awe of the woman’s process. To paraphrase, she read the top ten fiction books at the time, analyzed what they had in common, and wrote the perfect hybrid book, designed to succeed. And it did.

All I could think was “what a miserable way to write a book.” That brought me round to the essential question of this post. If I’m not writing to make a best seller list, what am I doing? I tried to be brutally, unflatteringly honest and I came up with seven reasons I choose to spend most of my free time on my laptop creating books. Some of them are pretty stupid.

This post is about the first answer that popped into my mind. It may not be my biggest reason, but it may be the one that keeps me writing novel after novel.

I have fun doing it. In fact, I have more fun making up a story than I have doing anything else. Yes, even that (although it is close.)

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t particularly enjoy rewriting, or proofreading, or formatting or all the other chores that take 80% of my writing time. I do enjoy research, but not that much. I hate marketing. I don’t do much outlining. But I love, absolutely love, making up stories and putting them down on paper.

I’ve told myself tales in my head for as long as I can remember, but committing the story to typed words moves it from an ephemeral daydream to a real thing. It can become more complex, be improved, and be reread and enjoyed. Seeing the words in front of me makes it better, and allows me to tell far longer tales.

The best part of it? It is finding out what happens. I always have an ending in mind, but I never know how my characters are going to get there, and they continually surprise me. They morph into better or worse or more complex people than I intended, they develop points of view I never considered, and they come up with ingenious solutions I swear I would never think of. (Or is that impossible?)

For me, that first draft is like watching a movie or reading a book except it is in a setting I picked, filled with characters I resonate with, and about things I like. Once I’ve got a story going, I can’t wait to get back to writing to figure out what will happen. Other forms of entertainment seem boring by comparison. I like my own stories better.

There you have it. Goofy but real. I write for my own entertainment.

Are there other reasons? There must be. I keep doing the other 80 per cent of the process over and over as well, no matter how much drudgery it is. Why? Perhaps the reason lies in the other six reasons that occurred to me. Those will be the subject of another post.

(Read more about why I write at My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing , Nothing cool about modest ambitions and I write because it’s cheaper than therapy.)

Going Crazy

Psychedelic 2Somewhere between meaningless uses of the word like “I’m crazy about you” and serious, perhaps even crippling, mental health issues is a world of sort-of-comic, sort-of-sad neurotic behavior that we lightly refer to as crazy. We use it to mean that you (or I) have crossed that fuzzy boundary that surrounds normal and you (or I) are now happily dancing around naked in pig shit singing songs from “The Sound of Music” while making funny faces. You know, crazy.

This wanton disregard for how one is expected to behave can be brought on by exhaustion, alcohol, drugs, elation or deep disappointment. Anything that knocks one out of one’s normal orbit will do. For me, it’s finishing a book. I mean totally calling it done, putting out there for anyone to buy, read, hate, love or ignore. There is something so raw about that act, so trusting and so daring, that it makes everything else seem silly.

word porn 2I’m having trouble eating and sleeping and concentrating. I don’t care what I’m wearing or how I look or what the damn bank statement says because I haven’t even opened it. All I care about right now is that somebody, anybody, reads my new book and says something. Nothing else matters. This book is everything.

Luckily, this is the fourth time I’ve done this, and so I am little more prepared. I know the craziness will pass. I’ll get back to bill paying and basic hygiene and maybe even schedule that dental check-up I put off the whole time I was writing it. Before too long, some people will praise my new book and a few will not and most people will never hear of it because that is that way of a self-published author. Knowing all this, will I write another?

I’m 30,000 words into book five and counting. Hey, I had to do something while book four was going through its final proofreads. By the way, I love this new fifth story even more. I can’t wait to publish it.

(Please drop by Facebook and give Psychedelic Adventure and Word Porn each a like for their clever posters shared here. If you are feeling especially kind or curious, you can check out c3, that fourth book, here.)