This is a loaded article. ‘Why I write’ is the sort of thing that could set me off into a diatribe of such self-focused, self-congratulatory, ego-maniacal deliberation that I wake up two days later in a daze like I was drunk on wine. ‘Why I write’ is dependent on how I understand my self as an individual. Anybody who knows me knows that I write things, after all. I write songs and I write stories and I write more songs and I write articles like this one and I write novels. I haven’t finished any novels but I keep working on them. I got a sidebar on my website that tells you my progress. Isn’t that clever? Hugh Howey used to do something like that on his website.
I have to be careful when I talk about myself for two reasons. The first reason is that I very much love the work I do and it would bore everyone but myself to talk about how awesome the stories I’ve made are, or how catchy I think the songs I’ve written. This part shouldn’t come off as too narcissistic, I hope. If I didn’t love my work then why should anyone else? The second reason is that I can be my own worst enemy and I firmly believe that the more intently I examine myself the less I like. It takes considerable willpower to consistently frame my life in a positive light.
But anyway, here goes, in no particular order:
1) I write because I love to read.
I never read as much as I should, mind you, but whenever I read it sends my imagination to places far beyond what pithy things I could have envisioned on my own accord. I read and reread great works of essays by Theodore Dalrymple and articles on the Art of Manliness from Brett Mckay and his wife, Kate, because they make me think in new and saner ways. I read non-fiction by the boatload, fiction by the buoy. When I read fiction, I am far more persnickety than I would like to admit. There are dozens of books that I have started and never finished, but when I do finish a book, it’s usually something pretty great. I finished Neil Gaiman’s Coraline last night and loved it, truly it was a gem. Timothy Findley’s The Wars was amazing as well. I’ve read Robert Heinlein and Stieg Larsson, Alice Sebold and Michael Crichton. I’ve read Ray Bradbury, Cormac McCarthy, Douglass Adams, Orson Scott Card, and many others. Though I read little fiction compared to many people, without these important examples of great authors I have read, I would have no hope of writing well, nor would I have any inspiration. No man is an island.
2) I write because it’s challenging.
Before you get the idea that I’m one of those gluttons for punishment whose sole thrill in life is the victory of achievement, I’d like to correct you by admitting that that… is only partly true. It turns out that I’m one of those multi-genre, multi-form writers because it very much appeals to my disposition to try and sympathize with as many different kinds of people and situations as possible. It is hard to write something worth reading, whose characters often are so very different from myself, but it is also immensely satisfying when I think I do a good job of it. Writing my science-fiction novel, as I have been doing for many, many months now, is hands-down the hardest creative endeavour I have ever attempted. But when I completed Part 1 (of 3) and had it sitting there, crisply printed beside me in a binder—the feeling of accomplishment was too immense to contain with words. I flip through it and catch myself reading sections and actually enjoying it. The challenge is awesome and the reward of completion—even more so!
3) I write because it makes sense out of life.
How often do you ever stop to think about the power of narration? As a writer, it’s on my mind quite a bit. I think about the intense power of personal narration, how the authorial command we have over our own lives dictates so much of our own sense of happiness and wonder. The way I see myself: I am a young man, husband, and father, who is managing a bookstore and honing his craft in his off time. I am adventuring into the future of an unknown career path, brushing shoulders with the ideas and characters that will inspire a body of work to hopefully last a generation. I am writing stories because someday my children will read them and remember the passion with which I wrote them. I am writing to inspire my children to take action when it comes to their passions instead of simply sitting there all day and watching Netflix. I write to right wrongs of the future. I am a time-traveller.
It’s important that I see myself as a positive protagonist in my own life. I recommend you do the same and not just because I said so, but because you are the lead in your own story. Be a good lead, then. Be a good protagonist.
See, a good protagonist makes decisions. A good protagonist learns from his mistakes and tries to better his situation with action, in addition to words. A good protagonist does not blame others for his position in life, he takes what was dealt him and multiplies it through sheer effort and the support of people he chooses to spend time with. Of course, I personally believe in a higher power and do not attribute my lot in life as a mere expression of my own selfish desires, but I believe the course to fulfilling what is planned for me will only be made through free will.
The point is that at minimum, I am a co-author of my own existence. This is a mindset as well as a set of actions. Now, I could look at my life in a totally different light. I could write an entirely different thought where I am the enemy in my own story, accountable to everyone but myself, flowing in whatever direction the wind blows because I lack the strength to stand against it. But I won’t write that story. That story is crap! That story has an unlikable protagonist. I’d put that book down before I even got to page 50. And if I wouldn’t read a book like that, you can sure as hell bet I’m going to do my best not to live a book like that.