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.)

It didn’t take a spaceship

Dalai 6I had this odd reoccurring daydream that started when I was about thirteen and kept me mentally entertained whenever I was bored.

I was on a spaceship by myself on a very long journey. I was quite happy about it, and was planning my schedule. How would I use my days? I’d allocate time for exercise (practicing yoga, perfecting the hula), for chores (doing fun space ship things) and for learning (French? Ancient history? Organic chemistry? Modern literature?). I would try to think of every aspect of my being and how to best enrich it and then I added to and rearranged my schedule endlessly, much to my own delight.

I’m serious.  I spent hours doing this. I have no idea why.

Then, of course, I grew older and filled my life up the way that adults do and I forgot about my favorite fantasy. A few decades passed, and now I realize that I should have given it more thought. If I had, I might have realized that

  • In spite of a friendly nature and tendency to smile at people, I am an off the charts introvert. Anyone who fantasizes about being alone on a spaceship as a child should not be surprised by her Myers-Briggs test results twenty years later.
  • There was no need to fight my compulsive desire to make lists. It was a losing battle. They say be true to yourself and planning my day is being true to me.
  • I love to learn, and should have made more time for it sooner. I’m making time for it now.
  • I don’t like other people telling me how to spend my day. This makes me a poor candidate for a traditional job, but a job is what I needed for the last couple of decades. We don’t all get the luxury of deciding that working for someone else is not our cup of tea. However, today I do have the option of working as a consultant in my field, and I should embrace this opportunity (and its many downsides) with all my heart.
  • We all want to be happy.  Knowing yourself is a giant part of finding fulfillment and contentment. Listening to your oddest, most secret dreams will tell you how to seek out joy in your own life. There are no right answers.

raising7Why did I suddenly remember this daydream? Well, I have a little more flexibility and free-time in my schedule now than I’ve had for years. With it has come an increasing excitement for planning my days and filling them with just the right mix of activities that enrich every part of my being. So I guess that is the last and most important thing I learned.

I don’t have to be sequestered on a spaceship by myself in order to do the things I want. I get to do them right here, right now, and can even sometimes share my joy with another like minded soul or two. In other words, I get to have my childhood fantasy, and it’s better than I thought.