I write because I can't not write. Double negative be damned.
Here's the thing about writing. It almost always starts out of necessity. I can't remember when I began writing, but I remember both times I've tried to quit. It doesn't work. It's not pretty. When I'm not writing, especially when I've decided that writing is too all consuming and I am officially in recovery, my mind does bad things. The irritability, the slide in confidence, the aimless melancholy leaks into my real life, my family life, in a very ugly-cry sort of way. And then the voices start.
Okay, I'm not crazy. The voices belong to the characters who take up residence in my head between manuscripts. When I'm immersed in a manuscript, it's like being in love - the kind of infatuated, passionate, can't get enough of him feeling from our very first loves. Nothing and no one else exists, and that's okay. It keeps other characters at bay; other characters who belong in other works yet to come and are waiting patiently to tell their story. But they know when the manuscript is finished, and they make sure I know they are there. They start quiet. It's a whisper as I'm falling asleep. A glimpse of a new protagonist, her form nearly sparkling with intriguing possibility. The voice of an exciting new book boyfriend, deep and resonating, sight unseen. My mind begins to fill in the blanks without my permission, sometimes in dreams, sometimes in quiet moments when I'm not paying attention, sometimes when I'm knee deep in momhood and laundry and dishes.
If I ignore these characters, their words and stories, they get loud. If I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge them, to enter into the agreement to tell their tale, this is when the ugliness starts. The only way back to normalcy, for me, is to begin.
Stephen King says that "stories are found things, like fossils in the ground… The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground as intact as possible.” I didn't understand this quote until a couple years ago. It's the idea that, as writers, we have only a certain amount of control over what and how and when we write. In the same way some words must be spoken, some songs must be sung, some stories just must be told, or they will wear a hole in us that can only be repaired by facing our fear and telling the truth. Because, as the man also says, "fiction is the truth inside the lie."
So I'm a little in love with Stephen King. So what. He's a smart guy. This is what I know: I am a better person when I'm writing. I'm not talking about writing for pay. That's an entirely different topic, with a whole different set of struggles. I'm talking about writing with the door closed. Writing what I want to write. Letting the people in my head out, letting them speak and listening well. Staying true to my characters and their story. This is my therapy, my release, my fun, my tears, my heart. Writing is my bliss, even when it's not. This is why I write.