What motivates me to do this? Why do I keep submitting novel after novel hundreds of times only to get rejected hundreds of times with the same form letter? Thank you, we don’t want it. Thank you, we don’t want it. Thank you, we don’t want it.
A few reasons.
By this point, I think I have to. I’ve made a habit of writing, carved out a section of every day to do it. If I go too long without it, I feel unproductive. Like I’m not contributing something to humanity. Even if I’m not producing something that’s going to be read publically, I’ve got to get my million bad words out.
“Writer: It’s not an occupation; it’s a compulsion.”-Teresa Nielsen Hayden
My Own Stories
I used to have an “About Me” page on my website, but I found it vain and juvenile. No one cares about me, they care about the content. They care about Disney villains and Saturn from Beetlejuice. Anyway, one of my FAQs was where I asked myself “why do I write”. I said “because I have no stories of my own.”
I lead a pretty uneventful life, as white and milquetoast and suburban as you can get. I live in a new development, I have 2.5 kids, and I drive a Ford Focus. I’m a software engineer. I’ve never been outside the U.S. except for cruises to the Caribbean. For cryin’ out loud, I live in Minnesota and I’ve never even been to Canada.
This is because (and it took a long time to come to this realization) I am highly introverted, combined with a healthy dose of anxiety and depression. That means I try my best to stay away from awkward and strange situations. And they always involve people. So I avoid people. I avoid potential conflict. But without conflict, there’s no stories. No stories of how I threw up on my pants or embarrassed myself in front of a girl or saw a ghost on the highway.
Millions of People Happy
There are probably some movies you can’t remember a time not having seen. One of those, for me, is The Muppet Movie. One time I re-watched it, something resonated with me. Kermit lives in a swamp, content as anything, plucking his banjo and enjoying the flies. Then a Hollywood agent boats up to him, recognizes his talent, and points him to an audition ad. Kermit rejects the first call to adventure, as any good hero does. But the agent convinces him.
BERNIE THE AGENT: You’ve got talent, kid. Singin’, tellin’ jokes. I mean, if you get your tongue fixed, who knows? You could make millions of people happy.
KERMIT: Hollywood. Gee. I… I’d miss this old swamp, but… millions of people happy…
People have always told me how much they like my writing. I’ve been making books since I was five, using my dad’s computer printer paper (the kind with the perfory edges and was all connected). I have a gift. It’s a gift I’m working on developing into… something. But talent isn’t enough, not in the literary publishing. You need to be able to say something.
“Fairy Tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy Tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”-not really G.K. Chesterson but more like G.K. Chesterson by way of Neil Gaiman but we’ll just say it was G.K. Chesterson
Ever since I heard this quote it changed my life. It’s why I put a random quote widget on the upper part of this website. I have a lot of dragons in my life. I see them both inside and out. And it comforts me to know that the bad guys can be defeated. That the Mitch McConnells and Donald Trumps and Matt Gaetzs of the world will go away, buried with their money.
But it’s never without struggle. You cannot have resolution without a sacrifice (Stephen King). My fear is always that new villains will pop up. But our stories help prepare us for them. And tell us what will happen if we let them win.
And that’s why I write.