Forgive the complete bastardization of one of my favorite quotes… Interestingly, I’d seen that quote (the above — something along the lines of “I’d have written a shorter letter if I’d had more time”) attributed to a variety of people from Mark Twain to Abraham Lincoln. However, my interwebs search this morning turned up the following:
“I made this so long only because I didn’t have the time to make it shorter.” Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales, Dec 4, 1656, Number 16 (near the end!).
“He would have made it shorter, if he had had more time.” Du Perron, as recorded by Ménage, Menagiana, 1693, p.178 (Here, the record reflects reported speech, and “he” is Coeffeteau. The reported speaker is Du Perron)
(Found here, if you are curious)…
Anyway, when I was doing a lot of freelance writing, I would dance a little jig whenever I managed to successfully get a magazine assignment. My dances were a little less celebratory when the assignment was 300 words or less. (Not just because I wanted, of course, to write a feature). I learned quickly how really difficult it is to say anything substantial — complete with compelling lede and memorable finish — in that few words. It often took me longer than a 1200 word assignment would.
All of this is my roundabout way of saying that I really appreciate a good short story. And that is not to say that I believe I can write one. But I’ve been working on it (mostly procrastinating doing anything on either novel at the moment, though I can honestly say that I’m researching the newest one).
Related: Why you should be writing short fiction at Anne R. Allen’s Blog…
I have two little kids. Boys. Tiny, messy, moody and irrational beastlings, really. Make no mistake, I love them and would give up every other part of my life for them if I really, really had to (wow I really hope I don’t ever have to. that would suck.) But this whole writing thing is sometimes harder because of the Mom job that I have to do most of the time. And I was thinking about that, but that’s probably a different post. What it led into this morning was this…
Since there is really quite a lot going on in my life outside of the time I spend pecking at the keyboard producing what might equate to pointless drivel, why do I bother? Why do I go to great lengths and invest so much effort in writing? Or trying to write? What is it that makes this important to me?
I’m not sure I have an answer. I have recently committed seriously to writing, to really trying to get a novel OUT THERE. But I don’t know why that feels so important to me. I know I have to do it now. And maybe from now on. Because I’m not getting any younger, and let’s face it, though I come from healthy stock, the fourth decade of a person’s life is often when nasty health-related things tend to pop up. And it’s easier to write when not distracted by cancer (or so I imagine.)
Since that was a thought I had on this topic, it led me to wonder if I feel that I must produce something to leave behind, if this drive to write is produced by my own pointless desire for some form of immortality. Do I really believe that the world will simply not be as good a place without a paranormal young adult romance from Delancey Stewart? No. I think the world would keep right on spinning, ghostly love story aside. I am certainly not arrogant enough to believe that I have something SO important to say that it simply must be said.
I’m going to have to think on this some more, though I doubt I’ll ever find a concrete answer. There is something in me that wants to write. It’s possibly as simple as that. Maybe it doesn’t matter much what I’m writing, though fiction makes me feel like I get to be in charge, and anyone who knows me knows that I like that a lot.
What do you think? What drives us to create, or specifically to write?
It’s hard for me to think of something to write about today — beyond what is looming directly in front of me. Self doubt.
Generally I don’t give in to much of this. In my life I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve gotten most of what I want in life — but I know that while luck has played some role, I’ve been responsible for creating the situations in which I came out on top. I think that my motto for life has always been “Things Work Out” — mostly because I make them work out or make myself find a way to accept the way that they have worked out on their own. I’m not sitting in a corner office on Madison Avenue, as I thought I might be one day, and I’m glad for it. I am not the world’s best mom…and in some ways I’m glad for that, too.
But as I edit the second draft of my first “real” attempt at a novel, I’m not sure where I stand. When you spend so much time alone with your words, it’s hard to see anymore if they’re any good. The first draft was easy because I didn’t expect much of myself. And now I’ve got this thing — this story on paper, and I have to ask myself, “is it compelling? how’s the pacing? are the characters believable, likeable, relatable?” “will anyone care about this?” “is it actually any GOOD?” The only thing I know for sure is that most of the quotation marks and periods will be in the right place since I have spent my life editing the work of others.
And then I meet other writers on Twitter who I want to see as colleagues or at least as other travelers on the same path — just maybe a bit farther along… I want to see myself as being in the same category as them. I want to think that I’m a great writer, I just haven’t put myself out there quite yet to be judged so. And I find that I’m afraid. I’m afraid that maybe I’m just pretending, maybe I think I can be a writer like Adrian Walker or E.M. Tippetts (new authors I’ve discovered recently who are kicking ass), but when I really try, the world will snort arrogantly because it sees clearly what I cannot. That I’m a dilettante (which, by the way, is the worst insult I could think to give someone like me).
I’m not looking for anyone to say, “hey, buck up little buckaroo!” I can say that to myself. I’m not looking for an established writer to say “we all have those thoughts sometimes” (though that would be nice — but I know that it’s true.) I guess I just wanted to say it. Maybe someone in the same place with their work will find some comfort in knowing that they are not alone.