Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because it feels so good when I stop.

Suzannah over at Write It Sideways posted yesterday about 37 questions new writers should ask themselves. It’s a fascinating list, and I’m working my way down it. I’ve thought a lot about a lot of these questions, others not so much, but I really think any/every new writer should think about these at a bare minimum as they begin to negotiate the very long journey to publication.

I’d add another question to that list. Why do I write, and would I continue to write if not for publication? That question looms large in my mind as I continue to look at the genre and type of writing that I seem to gravitate to. I think that became most glaringly obvious, yet again to me, during the Nine Muses Challenge I just finished.

I promised a break down for that experience, and here it is in short-form. Nine themes revealed over nine days. Once you began, the stories you wrote had to be linked by these themes, and the world you created in the first story is the one you stayed with through out the challenge. I wrote in first person, which dragged me very deeply into my character’s head. I was buried so deep I couldn’t wait to crawl out. And for the first time in my writing life, I cried. While I was writing. I had to get up and leave the computer. My chest hurt and the tears flowed.

Now mind you, I write dark. I’ve killed babies and entire worlds in my fiction without batting an eye. This left me feeling physically ill and in pain. My body hurt like I’d been slapped around and maybe pummeled. I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t stop writing. I could have stopped at any point, and didn’t.

And yet, I think what came out of that challenge was some of my better writing. And I would do it again. Insane? Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think my writing, which is literary in genre, is something that there will be a big mass market for. So as much as I’d love to be published, I’m not sure what I’m writing will do that for me. Which is another question I suppose I have to ask myself.

So how about you? As you peruse those 37 questions, why do you write? And would you continue to write if not for publication?


  1. That Nine Muses Challenge just about killed me too and I was only reading them.

    I think Sarah Jayne that if you didn't publish, the world would be bereft of a great, great talent. Right now you have 44 followers (with a few more lurking on the side), and those 44 know your work and love it. I've seen the comments. Can you imagine what 4400 followers would be like, or 44,000? Maybe even 440,000.

    It's not every day that a writer possesses your effortless skill and grace with words. I struggle every day just to form a coherent sentence.

    I think you should publish, or at least set an eye to it and form a novel for later. You'd be selfish to deprive so many of your incredible talent.

  2. Ignore those 37 questions. I'd say at least 35 of them are irrelevant.

    Want to write? Can you write? Will you write?

    That's all you need to know.

  3. Hi, Anne. Thank you so much for the very lovely, generous words. You are far too kind to me. And don't see yourself short. You have a way with words and mine is not so effortless and graceful. Often I feel like it's pulling teeth to get a subject and a verb together that agree.

    I think in the back of my head is the idea that one day I will begin that process you're currently undertaking toward publication. In the meantime I'll send my short stories off and keep working on my novel. :)

    Hey, Jeff. I think you may be right. And I love that you can cut through all the extraneous to the core. It's a gift. :) Thank you.

  4. PW summed it up better than I ever would (so no more self-bashing about "struggling", ok? ;-) ): you have been gifted with a unique skill and it would be a crime to keep it just to yourself and your faithful admirers. :-)

    And yet, I think what came out of that challenge was some of my better writing. And I would do it again.
    Painful as it was for you, it really did bring to the surface a great reservoir that you should keep tapping. The physical agony you experienced was certainly due to the deeper emotional involvement with these characters and stories.
    It was another kind of *darkness* because it came from within instead of being examined from without.

    Every time you ask yourself why you write, read these stories: you will have your answer.

  5. We write because the urge to do so is under our skin. To be published of course would be the ultimate goal. You'll get there :)

    By the way, I have something on my blog for you :)

  6. I'm not sure I'll get published because I'm not sure I'm that good, but I love it! I have a story that I want to share and I'm not going to stop if it doesn't publish. I'll just force it on friends and family. Mwahaha!

  7. I write because I am a writer; for me it's that simple. Published or not, I am a writer.

  8. Hey, Nym. Excellent advice as always.

    Every time you ask yourself why you write, read these stories: you will have your answer.

    Yes, ma'am. :)

    Hi, Wendy. Thank you so much, for the words and the award. :)

    Hi, Nisa. I love your attitude. :) And you're right. The story is there and it demands to be heard.

    Hi, Braja. Thank you and welcome. And you're right. I think the words 'I am a writer' say it all. :)

  9. I, too, have sickened myself writing things sometimes for my YA edgy ms. It so stinks, doesn't it? :) I am now following you too! YAY!

  10. Hi, and welcome! Yes, it is an unpleasant experience to be sure. And yay! for following. :)

  11. Sounds like your writing will draw readers in! Love to hear from other writers about their writing experiences.

  12. Thanks for sharing the break down of the challenge. It seems to me that whenever a person writes deeply and from the heart, that's when it hurts. And that's going to produce the best writing, not layered in massive amounts of BS.

    I like the 37 questions thing too. Very interesting.

  13. I am going to go through the questions later but for why I write? I write because I have to. It's like asking me why I breathe. It's what I do to live. It's a natural body occurrence, a reflex even. I just write. Even if I was never published, I would continue to paint and craft with words. This past year I've REALLY come to realize it and I'm not going to let it go! :)
    Great Post!!

  14. Hi, Terry Lynn. Thank you. :)

    Hey, Eva. I'm glad you liked the 37 questions. I loved this line.

    And that's going to produce the best writing, not layered in massive amounts of BS.

    Thank you. :)

    Hi, Hannah. That is a really beautiful post yourself and so very true. I love the imagery you have of painting and crafting with words. Thank you for sharing that. :)