That question was posed by the wonderful Jackie Mallon (http://jackiemallon.com/2014/05/25/why-do-you-write/) as part of what I’m reliably informed is called a “blog hop”. Now I’ll be honest, I don’t usually hold with this kind of stuff, but I love Jackie’s writing, and I enjoyed her answers to the questions and so…
The thing is, Jackie sent this to me back in May. And while I’m the first to admit to being a bit of a lazy cow on occasion, I have to ask myself why it’s taken this long to do anything about it. After all, we all get to the point when those blog topics aren’t exactly tripping off our fingertips – am I right? And here’s a subject that’s relevant, tried and tested, that other people have written and commented on already but where the personal perspective is mine for the taking – and yet… almost two months on, and I’ve yet to put virtual pen to virtual paper.
I have a whole pile of reasons. They’re nothing particularly original: I didn’t have time; would anyone really be interested; wouldn’t it be better to write a poem about the plastic lid on a takeaway beverage cup instead. They’re easy enough to trot out. But they’re not real. The real reason is simple and strangely embarrassing. The truth is – deep breath…
I wish I could sit here and say that I have an urge to write. It’s something deeply ingrained in my very being. That if I go for more than a couple of days without exercising my creative muscles, I become listless and irritable and unfulfilled. That my poor, tortured artist’s soul needs the oxygen of the written word in order to survive. (Okay, I know souls don’t need oxygen. Jeez – everyone’s a critic.)
If only that were true! At least I’d feel authentic. I could tell myself that I didn’t really have a choice. That my muse could not be denied! That loafing around in my pyjamas, drinking endless cups of green tea and arsing around on Twitter was an inherent part of my creative genius – rather than, say, just a strong preference to having to get out of bed with the alarm clock.
I’d try and stake a claim to altruism – I just want people to enjoy what I write – and that would be true, up to a point. But it’s no good pretending that the idea of anyone other than my husband actually reading anything I’d written didn’t bring me out in a cold sweat until well past the point of completing the first draft of my novel. And let’s face it, in the continuing absence of my six figure book deal, the chances of more than eight people actually having an opinion on my writing one way or another are slimmer than Kate Moss on the 5:2 diet.
I could say I write because I enjoy it: I enjoy playing with words and the pictures they can paint. And every so often, that’s true too. It’s true for those times when it feels like the story is flowing, and I can hear my characters’ voices, and some idea has just popped into my mind and I don’t know where I came from but I’m suddenly absolutely certain that that’s just the way it has to be. About ten per cent of the time, in other words.
And it’s true that I like thinking of my writing as something that will outlive me. I mean that in a very practical sense – I don’t have delusions of Shakespearian grandeur, little twenty-third century school kids poring over the collected works of the Yak, the teacher misting up her personal visi-screen and adjusting her face mask as she suppresses quiet sobs over the beauty of my prose. No, I just mean that there are a few hard copies of my manuscript out there somewhere, and that it’s possible someone will one day come across one whilst cleaning out an elderly relative’s loft, and might be curious enough to spend a few minutes leafing through it before they go back to sorting the recycling from the charity shop pile.
But I also think there’s a bit of magic in writing. No matter how hard the words come sometimes, no matter how disappointing the results. There’s something amazing about clicking your fingers and bringing a little clay figure to life: his name’s Neil; no, it’s Andy. Click. He’s a mechanic, but he dreams of being a professional footballer. Click. He’s got sandy coloured hair that falls over his forehead and gets in his eyes when he’s leaning over a car bonnet. Click. He’s planning to murder his brother.
Click, click, click.
Layer upon layer, clothes and gestures and expressions, impulses and secrets and lies – lies to themselves, lies to others. I add something here, take away something there. There are no secrets from me. I know it all. I create it all.
So maybe that’s really why I write: not because I’m an artist, or an altruist, or just a plain, old-fashioned egotist, dreaming of immortality.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a massive Nosey Parker.
Comment below and let me know what drives you to put pen to paper!