Why Do I Write?

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American author Joyce Carol Oates has a Detroit background, just like me, which is what first drew me to find out about her work. Unlike me, she has taught at Princeton University since 1978.

Although I don’t consider her one of my favorite authors, the critics seem to love her. She’s won many awards for her writing, including the National Book Award, two O. Henry Awards and the National Humanities Medal.

Her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), Blonde (2000), and short story collections The Wheel of Love and Other Stories (1970) and Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories (2014) were each nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Impressive, to say the least.

Still, she once said about the act of writing: “Given that it provokes such misery, why do I do it?”

For her, the answer is obvious. Because she’s good at it.

Writers Write
In the Renaissance, poets claimed they wrote for posterity … to be “immortal.” In religious communities, the creation of any art was for the glory of God.

In a capitalist society, one is likely to claim that he writes for the same purpose that everyone else does who produces a product in that society … for money.

But it’s rare that a literary writer can say he writes for money with a straight face, since the payment for prose fiction for most authors (I’m obviously not including the literary ATM machines like Stephen King), if broken down into an hourly wage, would be in the modest range of the US minimum wage of the 1950s.

To someone like me, who has written most of his adult life with varying degrees of enjoyment (or misery), writing is therefore sometimes a conscious variant of an unconscious activity, like dreaming.

So Why Do We Dream?
No one seems to really know, just as no one seems to really know why we, as a species, crave stories. My experience of writing is invariably a blend of the “inspired” and plodding execution.

Don’t get the wrong idea … I’m not one of those “tortured souls” running around looking for his muse. I have literally dozens of stories chasing themselves through my head on any given day. I’m actually working on three of them right now.

Sometimes I feel frustrated, like I won’t have time to write them all down. I get disappointed with myself at times, too … such as right now, as I look toward the rapidly approaching publishing deadline I set for myself and realize I’m behind schedule.

However, I tend to believe it will come out well … eventually.

Readers Favorite (and Other) Reviews
I have a target date of June 1 to finish (and publish) my next book, Blood Lake, in order to get it reviewed in time for entry into the Readers Favorite annual contest.

Good reviews please me (and I suppose they help to sell books), but they’re nothing like meeting readers who tell me they were moved or provoked by one of my books.

That happened to me recently, in church of all places. A woman sitting in the pew in front of me turned around and asked me “Are you an author?” The question surprised me since, as far as I knew, I’d never met her before. I answered yes.

Then she really surprised me. “Did you write Reichold Street?”

At first I thought someone I knew had put her up to it. But it turned out she’d taken my book out of the local library and enjoyed it so much she went out and bought her own copy. “I just had to have it,” she said. I was stunned and thought, what a rare privilege.

It reminded me again why I write (no, not for attention and universal acclaim … it’s far simpler than that).

I’m a much happier person when I’m writing. There’s a place in my head I go when I write that is rich and unexpected … and scary sometimes … but never dull. I initially went there after I sold my first short story, at seventeen. The payment was small but the adrenaline rush was incredible.

All of this excitement, just for writing? I thought. Wow!

These days, maybe because I can access that place in my head quite easily, writing feels like something I simply couldn’t live without.

It’s a joyous thing. I love having readers, like that lady in church. It was a nice event in my life, but I long ago realized … even though Gentle Reader, I want to bring you along, too … the person I’m really always writing for … is me.

Rochester Writer’s Spring Conference
As I streak to the finish line on my next book, I’m also looking forward to another Rochester Writer’s Conference. This one takes place again at Oakland University on April 23, 2016. It’s a good event, and I’ve never failed to come away with something valuable.

If you’re in the area, and have the time, I highly recommend it.

Five Quotes on Writing Worth Remembering
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
   ~ Louis L’Amour

“You fail only if you stop writing.”
   ~ Ray Bradbury

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
   ~ Robert Frost

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
   ~ Stephen King

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
   ~ Anton Chekhov

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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5 Responses to “Why Do I Write?”

  1. John W. Howell Says:

    I was born and raised in Detroit. I thought this post was very interesting since it does cause one to reflect on the reasons for writing. I guess it boils down to a simple idea of doing it because it brings more pleasure than pain. (Sometimes it is hard to see the mix being in that ratio)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Hackstock Says:

    Another interesting post Ron. Always enjoy them. Love

    Sent from my iSlate

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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