You know how writers sometimes try to come up with an answer to the question, “Why do you write?” I’m not sure if that’s a question that’s actually posed very often by an external source, or if writers simply decide to answer it themselves. Most writers can answer that question, and the answers may sound similar. Because there’s a story inside us that wants to come out, because it’s fun, because we want to experience a world that we otherwise couldn’t.
I haven’t really thought much about this question myself. No one posed the question to me, but during the last month, a particularly stressful time, I’ve had a realization about what my writing means to me.
First and foremost, I would say I write because I want to share my ideas with others. In my head, they’re no good to anyone but me. I get really excited about some things–a character with a great story, a plot twist that I just have to build a plot around, a sweet moment in time that just maybe I can contain and show to people. The best way to share these things with others is to write them down.
When I first started writing more seriously, the reason was to make up stories about characters my friends and I played in an online game. I used some of what happened to us in the game, made up my own stuff, and just had fun with it.
Now I can add a different answer, one that I never would’ve expected to apply to me. I write because it’s a stress relief. I’ll try to be brief in my explanation.
My dad is a blacksmith who demonstrates his craft at historical reenactments like this one:
At those shows, he also sells items he makes year-round. Camping equipment, fireplace tools, things like that. I work for my dad, mostly doing the books for his small business. I also go with him to some of these reenactments to sell the product.
Going to reenactments, for us, means being gone from Thursday or Friday (depending on if the show has a kids’ day on Friday or not) until Sunday night, sleeping in a truck camper, waking at 7, and being at the mercy of the weather.
In the fall, we have our heaviest concentration of events. This year, we had shows on 5 weekends in a row. This culminated in our two biggest shows of the year, back-to-back. For these two shows, it’s all hands on deck, because the crowds are huge and one person cannot accommodate the rush of people wanting to buy from us.
The show season is really busy for us, both on the weekends of said shows, and during the week when we’re recovering from one and gearing for the next. I work a lot more (normally I work 1 day every week or two), both on the weekends and during the week, and it’s just a generally stressful time.
During all of this, I’m still homeschooling my kids, and I have to bring them when I work during the week and take care of them while trying to focus on my work. I’m not home as much, so the state of the house suffers (I’m not much of a house cleaner anyway, so it gets really bad during this time), my ability to make supper every night is diminished, and school often suffers too. I don’t get a lot of breaks or “me time” while all of this is going on.
This year, I’ve developed a stronger daily habit for writing work than I ever used to have. However, it’s difficult to stick to it when in a busy time like this, and I definitely slacked on the weekends. Even when I had an hour alone before bed, I was usually too tired to focus on writing. Besides, most of my writing work needs a laptop, or at least space to spread stuff out around me. Neither of those are easy to get in the truck camper (we’re not plugged in, just parked out in a field).
However, during the week, I still usually made sure to do some work in the evening. And during the shows’ open hours, when there was a moment of quiet, I would usually be thinking through questions I had about the story I’m revising, or about the one I’m plotting for this year’s NaNo. It gave me something to focus on that was important to me, amidst the craziness. It was nice.
During some of this busy season, a misunderstanding between my husband and me led me to believe that he didn’t want me to spend nearly as much time working on my writing any more. I took something he said the wrong way and nearly fell to pieces thinking that spending my evenings (usually after kids were in bed) shut away and writing/revising/plotting was a problem for him. Before he could explain what he’d actually meant, I was in tears and blurted out something to the effect of, “What will I do to relieve the stress from all of these shows?”
Those words were as much of a revelation to me as they were to him. Neither of us had ever really realized how much my writing meant to me, beyond just trying to share my stories. I can’t say this has changed my thoughts about my writing, or even my approach. However, I am now even more inclined to make sure I get to some sort of writing work every day that I can.
I also think that perhaps, even without having realized it yet, the therapeutic aspect to writing may have been why I’ve been so much more excited about NaNo this year than usual. Or maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed.
What about you? Why do you write?