40 Reasons Why I Write

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Relatively recently, Bryan Hutchinson issued a challenge on his blog, Positive Writer – list 40 reasons why you write. You can see his answers here. When it came about, I was in the throws of Camp NaNoWriMo. As that is now complete, and I’m taking a small break from the novel so I can attack it again in July’s edition of Nano, I needed this challenge. It’s been difficult to stay motivated, because the hits just keep coming in both my personal and professional life. So, I’m going to take some time to remind myself why I write. I hope you find my answers either interesting or inspirational. Also, I am so incredibly late to this challenge.

  1. Writing keeps my brain busy. With my ADHD, my brain is always spinning anyway, so this gives it something to work on in the background.
  2. Stories haunt me, and I have to get them out.
  3. I have had a lot of trauma and strange events in my life, and I need an outlet.
  4. Sometimes, I like to live vicariously through my characters.
  5. Sometimes, I like to bury myself in my characters so I can forget life.
  6. My son looks up to me for creating whole stories all by myself, and there’s no beating that.
  7. Writing is a strong bond I share with my husband, as he is also an author.
  8. Writing is a strong bond I share with my sister-in-law. She is also an author.
  9. Writing has helped me make amazing friendships, some that are sure to be lifelong.
  10. I like how writing makes me feel, like I am weaving worlds from my imagination.
  11. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finally get something right is amazing.
  12. Rewriting has taught me all about perseverance. Frustration, but perseverance.
  13. I like to read things I love over and over again, so this was probably a fitting career choice.
  14. I love to paint with words.
  15. I love to listen to music, and music always inspires me to paint with my words.
  16. Clever dialogue is all around me. What would I do if I didn’t jot some of it down and use it for my own benefit?
  17. My best friend has yoga. I have writing.
  18. The creative people on my journey with me are the best people.
  19. My characters tend to be stronger than I am. Or at least, than I was. These days, I seem to be taking a page from my own book. Writing has encouraged me to be stronger.
  20. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won’t get anywhere in this business, or something is wrong with the core of a particular story, etc. I intend to prove them very wrong.
  21. When my anxiety disorder, my depression, my PTSD rears up, writing helps me cope.
  22. Because, as a woman, and as a woman with physical and mental health issues, my voice and my individual experiences deserve to be heard.
  23. I love reading so much, and I know how it feels to really connect with a character. I would love to be able to provide that for someone else.
  24. I’ve always loved playing with voice and word choice, seeing how different an outcome I can create just by finding a more exact bit of syntax.
  25. Writing often helps me to put feelings I’m dealing with into words, to tell truths through my characters that I can’t articulate properly in reality.
  26. I honestly don’t know what I would do with all the spare time I’d get if I didn’t write or plan to write.
  27. When I’m writing I can temporarily put off other, more important chores. But not the most important ones, of course. 😉
  28. I still believe in magic, and sometimes, writing feels like magic. Like when something inexplicably comes together, and it feels like destiny, that feels like magic. That is the rare moment where I become a believer.
  29. How else can I justify talking to the people who live in my brain?
  30. I’m stubborn and I’ve said I’m going to do it, so damn it, I’m going to do it.
  31. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met write, so I hope some of that rubs off on me.
  32. Sometimes, I’m not all that adventurous, so I need an excuse to try new and interesting things. Research gives me that excuse.
  33. I was already a fact hoarder. This gives me a reason to hoard facts.
  34. I hate waste, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and random experiences that just kind of sit around in my brain and go to waste. I want to give them some use. Like my two years working at an ice cream shop. I’m using that in my latest book.
  35. There are tons of stories that I want to read, that I don’t find out there. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. They say, if you want something done, do it yourself, right?
  36. I’m getting to a point where rejections mean almost nothing to me. I’m numb to rejection.
  37. Unless, they come with constructive criticism, at which point I am disappointed, but I have learned to love constructive criticism and view it as encouragement and help, rather than an insult. I think writing has helped to improve my personality in that way.
  38. I have also become able to tell the difference between constructive knowledgeable criticism and insults, being led astray, and jealous attacks designed to keep a person below them. That lesson has helped me in all areas of my life.
  39. I have a side gig as an editor, and I’ve always believed that, if you are going to manage people, you should be willing to get your hands dirty. If I won’t get my hands dirty with words, why should I tell other people to do so?
  40. I love to geek out. It’s my life’s mission to make other people geek out as much as I do.

So, there are my 40 reasons! Do you need to remind yourself why you love something? Share your reasons in the comments, and thank you for being one of the people I’ve encountered on this journey, the people I write for. Thank you for being one of my reasons. ❤

The Elusive Nature of Inspiration

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“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question I often get when I’m discussing the nature of my latest story, usually with a person who does not write. Any writer knows that writers don’t know where their ideas come from. In his writing book/memoir “On Writing,” Stephen King said, “There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

It’s true. We have no idea. However, we often remember our line of thinking when we’ve come up with some of our ideas. So where have some of mine come from? How different are their origins? Do some story elements come from different places? Let’s talk.

I’ve had stories arise from concepts I wanted to explore. The Order of the Key was about me trying to create a strong female hero from a geek who has been raised loving superhero media. Lucy Dies in the End was really solely about that concept–I literally just thought about the title and how cool it would be if Lucy herself was the one to say it. I’ve always been drawn to Greek mythology and Aphrodite in particular, which led to Never Say Never. My interest in past lives played into my ideas for the mystery behind Living in the Past.

I’ve had stories arise from dreams. Often when I have these, they play out before me like movies. Legally Insane was about a dream I had about a hidden relationship in a workplace. The present day tale in Living in the Past comes from a very vivid dream I had about a woman strongly connecting with a man and coming home with him, only to stumble into a mystery involving his son.

I’ve had stories arise from mundane reality. Like the lead character in The Order of the Key and Legally Insane, I am a geek. Legally Insane is largely about work in a law firm, which happens to be my day job. The concept of Lucy as Lady Justice in Lucy Dies in the End came from staring at Lady Justice during various court case searches at my job. My parents’ divorce heavily inspires some of the debates on long term relationships in Never Say Never. Dating experiences of my friends helped inspire other portions. And the characters work in an ice cream shop. My first job was at a Carvel. Choosing to Stand Still was a sort of wish fulfillment, regarding a pair of best friends I knew that I thought belonged together–if you’ve read that one, writing it made me realized they were right never to pursue that route.

17760096_1325475264199099_8399109544035762431_nI’ve had stories arise from conversations. The backbone of Legally Insane involves the main character visualizing a character from her favorite television series prodding her to be strong in the face of a major life change. This came from a joke that was made when chatting with fandom friends about Jack O’Neill, a wise-cracking character from Stargate SG-1. My friend said, “I wish I could take him around in my pocket to smack some sense into me.” From there, the idea was born.

I’ve had stories arise from fears. Without spoilers, the fear of losing a child played into The Keys & Guardians series plan heavily. Things You Can Create arose from the fear of the kinds of torture I could carelessly visit upon my characters. It is, unsurprisingly, my first short story.

I’ve had stories that arise from past trauma. One Percent is an exploration of my descent into anxiety prior to spinal surgery. One Headlight was born of the death of a friend, one who died in a car accident on the way to college. Tunneling dealt with my experiences with dealing with alcoholics. The Peace of Completion and Release dealt with some wish fulfillment regarding the aftermath of my sexual assault. Blue Ice dealt with the issue of domestic violence, handled by a third party, looking in.

What does this tell you? Stories come from so many different places. Some of the things on this list were planned. Some were things that spilled out of me once I began to write. But all of it were things I drew upon to create stories that meant a lot to me.

What does this mean for you? It means inspiration can come from anything. It can be a mix of many things. So collect writing prompts. Collect interesting factoids. File away tidbits about the people you meet. But most of all, experience. Live your life with a keen, attentive eye and look at all you see around you. Every bit of your life experience, even the bad things can be weaved into the fabric of a story.

So how do you find the elusive creature known as inspiration? The answer is simple. Live.

Alma Mater Hail to Thee…

photo3Christopher Columbus High School has closed its doors. My alma mater as it was will cease to exist, having been overtaken by several charter schools. This is surprisingly difficult for me. I’m not the girl who blossomed as a teenager and lived out my glory days in the four years within those walls. I tend towards the belief that I continue to blossom and re-blossom, or that I have only just blossomed. So why this difficulty? Oh…just because my entire life changed in the days I went to that school and in many ways because of that school, its staff and its students.

I entered Columbus in a complicated state. My previous school had been an awful disaster, rife with three years of varied and inventive bullying. My home life was…unreliable, and I was facing the beginning of the crushes/dating journey. By the end of freshman year, my life was a mess. I had zero confidence, my parents were in the midst of a divorce, and all of my existing relationships were on shaky ground.

In Sophomore year, I didn’t care. About anything. I didn’t know it then, but this was when my now diagnosed clinical depression first reared its head. I went to school with a chip on my shoulder when I bothered to show. I suffered through every class but one. Music History. I tried hard to act like I didn’t care. It should have been easy. The teacher was a neurotic bossy pain who told corny music jokes and snipped at you if you walked into the class a second after the late bell. Still, every lesson was met with grudging fascination. And that pain of a teacher KNEW it.

One day, he slapped a flyer down on the empty chair next to me before I could kick my feet up onto it (a habit I had developed for the sole purpose of annoying him), said “Audition”, then walked away. It was for the musical Bye Bye Birdie.

Having always enjoyed singing, I thought, what the hell? I auditioned and got a small part. OMenJoynHiram0855nce rehearsals began, I was swept away. I met the girl who is still my best friend while learning choreography for that show. She managed to drop change on my face while doing a difficult to explain piece of choreography. She apologized, then introduced herself with the words, “My name’s Leonore, but nobody calls me that.” Then she flitted off to some other call. It took days of talking to her to actually get the answer to the obvious question. (People call her Joy.)

I met other good friends in those remaining years and opened up to others who had been around in the year and a half before I’d found my way. Though many of the people I knew in those four years float in and out of the main stream of my life, they all hold special places in my heart.

There’s a reason I was able to feel that way. Music and performing opened me up, dragged me out of my depression and reminded me that life, no matter how dreary it can be, is beautiful, that people can create beautiful things. Working with the musical cast and crew, the Girl’s Ensemble group, and the Concert Choir, woke me up. I began to learn the principles of what it takes to be an artist.

I learned in room 301, where competition got fiercely intense between people who never should have competed with each other. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. Where the Soprano v. Alto v. Tenor v. Bass wars were strong, and where I learned to sing notes so high I thought my brains were going to come out of my ears and still managed to nail them. Where we fiddled with the piano and randomly sang songs in between class periods. Where I learned to sing Jump Jive and Wail by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Anything You Can Do from Annie Get Your Gun, the majority of Handel’s Messiah, and Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco. And pretty much everything in between.

Cinderella Dress RehearsalI learned in the Auditorium, where I nearly broke my ankle (and at least sprained it) during our first performance of Zombie Prom and performed five more times over the next two weeks as a character that jumped up and down…a lot. Where I covered for Joy so she could sneak a kiss with the older boy from the lighting room. Later, she would run the stage crew with a patch over her eye after an accident while building a set (her eye recovered), and Doc (as we affectionately called Dr. Dzik) would panic over the fact that she couldn’t make it because she was hospitalized and then, after a Hail Mary run from the hospital, complain that she was there because he was worried about her. Where my husband used to pick me up at the end of a rehearsal day when he was just a boyfriend. Where Dr. Dzik dragged me to perform the “Star Spangled Banner” to open an assembly without warning because the person who was supposed to do it was out sick and I was in the hall cutting so I “wasn’t doing anything better anyway, was I?”

Columbus. Where I learned passion and drive and loyalty. Where I learned to think on my feet when JGrad'00props were forgotten, sound effect were ill timed, signs fell, and Cinderella’s glass slipper was accidentally flung out into the audience. Where I learned disappointment that was followed directly by getting back up and doing the damn thing again. And where I learned all of your basic subjects as well, because I walked out of that place with a 95 average and an actual work ethic.

Not bad for a High School with metal detectors, in Bronx, NY.

On Wednesday, July 18th, the many years worth of alumni of the Concert Choir gathered in the Columbus High School Auditorium to say goodbye. As I had a million times before, I walked in with Joy. The first thing she noticed was that they had walled over the lighting room. We were informed that area was now occupied by classrooms. The stage manager in Joy grumbled. Later while talking to our beloved Doc, he told us that room 301 was split into two classrooms, neither of which taught music. I rolled my eyes and said, “Of course.” He nodded and gave my shoulder a little squeeze. We sang the songs that the collection of 40 or so alumni, spanned over a couple of decades of graduating classes, all knew. The few songs that were staples in our repertoire. Throughout the process, Doc was as bossy and neurotic as ever, but a bit more emotional. When Doc told us to take five, Joy and I sat in the back of the auditorium, looking at the stage that was at once our salvation and our source of grief for years.

150091_10152084744868412_1487070890_n-1“You’re my son’s aunt, and we never would have met if it hadn’t been for this place and 301,” I said, looking out at the closed curtains we had once hid behind before the start of a show. We sat there hands clasped together for a minute before Doc yelled at us to go outside. Some things never change.

We sang the school’s alma mater on the stairs of the school, our voices reaching out into the neighborhood, reminding them that they were losing something precious, even if they didn’t realize it.

photo2And then, we said our goodbyes, and went back off into our regular lives, continuing to utilize the things we learned. I went back to writing. At Columbus I learned responsibility, drive, hard work, relentlessness and perseverance, created in a moment by a pain teacher who became someone I grew to care deeply about because he cared about what happened to my spirit.

The art may have changed, but the artist remained, and she was crafted in that building.

“Here’s a toast to Columbus High School, alma mater hail to thee.” ~ Christopher Columbus Alma Mater