Why do I write?

It seems like a simple question, and it is in many ways, but there are also reasons which are difficult to put a finger on until you start searching for their meaning. The simplest truth is that there isn’t any one reason why I write. I write for a multitude of reasons, though admittedly some may be bigger reasons than others.

I get the feeling from some that I’ve shared my writing with that they think it all just happens. That I just plunk myself down at a computer and sooner or later I have a story on page. While this is true to a certain, small and very literal degree, it also is very wrong. They have however unknowingly hit on what of the hardest parts of writing for me, and that’s the very act of sitting down and grinding the words out. After all, it’s much easier to edit a bad piece of writing than it is to pull perfect phrases out of your head.

The reality, at least for me, is that it all starts with an idea. That idea eventually combines with others to become a premise, then an outline, before becoming a more detailed outline. There may also be character outlines and other information to varying degrees of detail. Ideally, I’d like to have everything figured out beforehand so I can sit down and start writing. After it’s as ready as I’m getting it, it finally gets to go on screen in a first draft, but many edits follow still. So as you can see, it’s far from ‘oh I had this idea and started writing and the words just wrote themselves.’ In fact, from what I’ve heard from other writers, that phenomenon seems to be a myth. Certainly there are times when the words come easier than others, but to craft a solid, well rounded story or novel takes time, and it certainly takes effort. Some of my best writing has come from the most difficult passages to write on the first pass.

Okay, so it takes even more effort than previously thought, that’s just another reason not to write, isn’t it? No actually, quite the opposite. I enjoy the process of creation quite a bit, and it’s a good feeling to see something that was just the seed of an idea take shape and sit before you in the form of a short story or novel.

The desire to write is more than that though, it’s a need. It’s a compulsion. I have to write, otherwise I go crazy. Perhaps not literally, but I will literally be short a hobby I love.  I’d be short an escape, which we all need from time to time. Writing is something I love, and I can’t imagine not doing it. I can’t fathom a future in which I’m not typing out my latest idea to see where it takes me. You see, I have a thousand thoughts swirling through my head at any given moment and the only way to let them out is by writing them down. Ideas swirling in my head need to find their way out my fingertips, freeing up space for other thoughts.

If I neglect to write the ideas pile on top of each other until they are nothing but an incomprehensible jumble. Writing them down actually makes the ideas clearer and easier to understand. By clearing out the log jam I have more brain power to devote to a single idea. Ideas that were once singular lump together into more ambitious projects. Exploring them, unfailingly, leads to a cascade of new ideas and wrinkles to explore.

In short, the fuel for writing is nothing less than writing itself. The way to clear my head and maintain my sanity is to write. It is a wonderful system for those who enjoy the art. It is even more wonderful given that the best way to improve writing is, not coincidentally, writing itself. Reading cannot be understated as well, it is vital to improving one’s writing. One thing to keep in mind is not only must one read, one must read as a writer. More on that another day, maybe, though it’s well documented already.

To add to all of this, if I had to pick one reason for why I write it would be this: I have a story to tell. A story that doesn’t just need telling, it doesn’t just beg to be told, but something that demands monumental efforts to be told in the proper way. Something that requires I take the hundreds of hours to lay everything out for whoever will read.

I need to let it out, I need to tell other people about Devinin, Simon, Kyla, Hansen, Maeve, and whoever else swims in my head (all from current works in progress). Any and all of them have their own unique stories that require an appropriate telling to do them justice. To do anything less than I am capable, than they deserve, is a disservice. It’s unfair to the characters themselves, to not bring them to their full potential. It’s unfair to me as the writer to not push myself as far as I can go, otherwise how will I grow and become a better writer? Ultimately it’s unfair to the reader who will suffer through a story that’s not as good as it could be, and should be. So for anyone out there who is willing, thank you for reading! I’ll be doing my damned best to make sure I put out the best I can for you.

—C R Alexander


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