Monday, 30 January 2012

Because If I Didn't, I Would Die...

I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.    ----Isaac Asimov

 I doubt there is an author out there who can’t say this about their writing—that without it, they would die.

The populous grumbles about those authors who spit out what seems a hundred books a day, under severe pressure to do so, to stay on the New York Times Bestseller List. I gripe about them, too. Hey, how can they really have a love affair with writing when they’ve turned into a book machine? But you know what? I’d be willing to bet even these authors would more than likely wither and blow away like ashes on a breeze if they could not write.

Lately I’ve looked inside myself to see just why I write. What’s my motivation? What is my ultimate goal? Money? Fame? Money, fame and a big movie deal? Do I seriously harbor dreams of a movie deal in which Alessandro Gassman or Russell Crowe play my leading man? Oh, sure, in the back of my mind, I have overblown fantasies. Who doesn’t? They’re fun, they sprinkle the adventure of writing with pretty sparkles.

Seriously, though? To show you just how much money didn’t play a part in my decision to try to be published: When I received the contract for my novella, Candy G, I actually did a double take at the section that discussed a payment method. Payment? That’s right! I get paid for this! And that is the truth. Money had really never figured into the equation when I submitted my manuscript. And it still does not. It does not motivate me. Oh, yes, I do feel an obligation as an employee of my publisher to earn money for them, but if left to my own devices, I’d…yes, I’d do it for free.

But what does drive me?

As egotistical as it may sound, I want my writing to create characters who live and breathe, who—as so many of my favorite authors’ characters do—stay on your mind long after you close the book.

I want you to wish you could hang out with my characters. I want you to be attracted to them, I want you to fantasize about them. To get so mad at them that you want to slap them upside the head, but still remember them.

If you walk away from my book and shake your head, saying you can’t believe my character did this or that—how could they do that, that bastard, that bitch?—then I’m happy.

If you cry, that’s fine, although my goal is not to have a Kleenex rating on my book. I don’t feel I’m only successful if I can bring you to tears. And, on that note, those who know me well are aware that I cringe at the push in authors to see who can evoke the most tears, as though if we can’t reduce you to a sobbing mass we’ve not done our jobs. Baloney.

Okay, so I do want to create memorable characters. But what about me? What do I want for myself? That question leads me to the issue of promotion. Pimping my book. Why do I do any promo? If I claim I’d do it for free, why the promo?

Ready for the answer? I guess you could chalk it up to ego. Not money but ego. On my characters’ behalves, though, not necessarily all mine. If I do want you to get to know them, to have all the emotions I mentioned earlier, I have to pitch them.

I suppose I could feign modesty, but I’d be lying. The fact of the matters is, yes, I would die if I could not write. But is it me who would die? Or all the characters who live and breathe inside me? It’s them. So I do have to write or that beautiful, powerful force in me would expire. And I could not bear that.

On the other side of that coin, though, lies another truth.

With that very true, very live entity within me does go pride and the desire to share what is beautiful to me. My characters.

Should I feel guilty because I’m proud of them, because I want you to get hooked on them? Is that ego? Maybe. But no more than a mother who tingles inside every time a passerby compliments her child. These are my children, these characters.

The trickiest part of this, though, is that other question. So, if your characters could ever really be so powerful, so memorable, are you REALLY not—just a little—wanting to bask in that glory yourself? If I answer ‘no’ to that…well, you’ve heard about Pinocchio and his nose, right?
The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. ----William Faulkner


Karenna Colcroft said...

This post shows me you're writing for the best reasons, and that's why Candy G is such a powerful story. In a sea of authors who are in it for the money (as some of them have freely admitted), you write first for the love of writing; everything else is just gravy.

Kenzie Michaels said...

Not sure if you were around when I said this before, but due to pressures of the day job, I was unable to write for several weeks, yet the story churned in my head. When I finally DID get a chance to put pen to paper, I literally wrote non-stop (except for sleep and meals) for three weeks, even taking my notebook to church! And then had the daunting task of deciphering my 60+ handwritten pages and typing them all up...then kept going for another month until my characters reached their HEA. The family was relieved when that 'storm' was over!

C. Zampa said...

And you know how YOU know that, Karenna? Because you write for the same reason. Just in the blood, these characters are.


C. Zampa said...

Kensie, that is just the most beautiful story! Oh, what a wonderful experience for you!

Thanks for sharing that!

Unknown said...

Can I just say 'ditto' and be done with it? Facts, I wrote for years and years before I ever thought about seeking publication. Long before Ieper even thought to call myself a writer. I walk, I talk, I breathe, I write. It's as natural as any other thing I do. I just always have, so there it is. I suppose I could stop writing. I could also cut off a limb, but that would just be self-destructive insanity, right?

C. Zampa said...

Jaime, the funniest thing happened when I read your mention of losing an arm. I actually gasped. Not from horror of a grizzly thought, but from the gut reaction I had to not being able to write by losing an arm.

That was the writer in me cringing at the thought of losing MY arm and not being able to write.

I know that feeling!

by Sarah Lee said...

This is what writing is all about. Every writer wants the reader to see her characters the way she sees them, to love them as much she does. And what you said about how if the story inspires emotion, that's exactly how I feel about it! To convey emotion is an author's most important tool, and you have that down, sweet sis! You're awesome at it. :)

C. Zampa said...

I never thought of it that way, Sarah, but you're right. Being able to write emotion IS a tool. I like the thought of that.

And thank you, my sister! Hugs!