40 Reasons Why I Write

pexels-photo-206487

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

13233086_10209370978261586_7964936130638804306_n

“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.

The Long and Short of It

Inspiration is a strange thing. Sometimes, it comes you to in a word. A phrase. A sentence. Sometimes, you have a dream. Sometimes, it’s a what if. In my next blog post, I’ll probably go further into ways I’ve been inspired to write the stories I’ve composed in my life. I’m not sure how inspiration works with other writers, but with me, it always seems to show up in a way where I can tell what the final piece will become. Short Story? Novel length? I usually know how far I can pull each thread when it appears. And so, I tend to find my planning so very different for each. On this blog, I once discussed the difference between a pantser and a plotter, and I very firmly stood on the plotter side, but with some flexibility. But as I’ve begun working on new short stories, the first I’ve written since truly completing my first novel, I’ve realized something odd.

I’m not a pantser or a plotter. I’m both.

When it comes to working on a novel, I am an obsessive planner. I write forty page long outlines with clips of scenes and setting and history and descriptions, etc. I like to be ready, so when I sit down to work on the story, I know all the details and I can create without being stopped by questions about where I’m going or what role certain things will play in the story. That being said, I still surprise myself, and I try to stay open to changes when they occur, and reshape my outline every few chapters to make sure my direction still makes sense.

When I’m working on a short story, it’s very different. Sometimes, I come up with a concept I want to play with. Sometimes, it’s just a word. Sometimes I get a story prompt. Sometimes, the idea pops out of my head fully formed, like Athena emerging from Zeus’ axe-split noggin. Sometimes, the idea comes out in dribs and drabs. I’ll write a paragraph at a time, when the mood strikes. I’ll revisit it and write a few lines of dialogue. I’ll find another story prompt that will revitalize it and I’ll start writing it full time again. Often, I’ll just write with no idea where I’m headed, and see what happens. Then I’ll go back and re-read it all and add and subtract as needed, once I’m sure I have something that might vaguely resemble an actual story.

I am currently working on one of those piecemeal short stories, and it made me think about how different the processes are. Short stories are a short, frozen moment in time. You have to say so much more with so much less, and for some stories, it’s impossible. Some are just too big for that. In short stories, every word must count to explain the situation, to create the mood, to give us enough of the character that we care for them in a few short pages.

In longer stories, you have time to grow the character, to slowly reveal the plot, the setting. You can go into much more detail, have so many more words to work with. Perhaps this is why the outlining for a long story is so intense for me. Perhaps with short stories, I’m telling a story frame by frame and worrying less about the background, about who these people were beforehand and will be later. Because all that matters is this moment in time, and what they do with it. And the only thing that needs to inform that is their actions in that moment.

Or maybe the writing brain is magical and there is no rhyme or reason to it.

For all my writers out there, what methods do you employ when outlining a short story? A novel? Let’s chat!

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 2

Back in October, I did one version of the iTunes shuffle challenge, in which I listened to iTunes on shuffle and wrote a short blurb about what each song meant to me. This time around, I’m tackling the challenge differently. I’m going to shuffle the songs, and then, I’m going to write whatever it inspires in me, and only write for the length of the song.

I ended up using thirty songs. Ten of them triggered absolutely nothing. Ten of them came up with almost nothing, with a last minute nugget of an interesting line of dialogue. I haven’t included those. But ten of these, hopefully, have some substance to them. So, onto the challenge!


1) Place for My Head by Linkin Park, Album: Hybrid Theory

 

“I didn’t help you because I wanted to add another favor to my belt. Unlike you, I’ve never been keeping score,” I said.

“That’s only because you could never repay what you owe me.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “Besides, I don’t count forgiveness in bullets shot. You use your weapons carelessly. You’re bound to get everyone killed.”

2) Hollywood by the Cranberries, Album: To The Faithful Departed

I stared into the mirror and willed my reflection to change, my green eyes narrowing, accenting the recently developed indentations that would soon become crow’s feet. I huffed my frustration at the inanimate object, struggling to brush my wild auburn curls into submission and gather them with a coated rubber band that would probably survive one or two uses before it popped under the pressure of the battle. I smoothed makeup over my pale and freckled skin, tried to hide all redness. I accented my eyes and lips, my good features, my only ones. I tugged my clothes around my widened form, struggling to make them sit right, like they used to, but it was no use. I sucked in lumps, smoothed, yanked, and stretched fabric, but my body wasn’t what it used to be. My glory days were gone, or at least that was what every public image would like me to believe.

3) What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

My eyes struggled to open, but I could hear things through the fog of my brain. A page turning. A bit of shuffling. I couldn’t understand it. I was asleep and there was someone there with me. I lived alone, but I couldn’t seem to peel my eyes open to see who it was. I was too weak. I drifted away again…

Finally, my eyes opened. I was looking around the room before I even realized I was awake. Sterile white surrounded me. I was covered in layers of stiff sheets, and I stared out at a white board with a smiley face and a few names written across it in red ink. And a sharps disposal container. A hospital room.

“Hey, you’re awake!”

I rolled over to see who had spoken and groaned in pain. My entire body ached.

4) Swallowed in the Sea by Coldplay, Album: X&Y

My heart stopped as she shimmered into existence, an ethereal presence from another world. Her face was so familiar, my heart hurt.

5) Mary Jane by Alanis Morissette, Album: Jagged Little Pill

I stared out at the street below my window, my eyes heavy-lidded from the hours of crying the night before. My eyes couldn’t seem to find the tears anymore, but my head felt heavy with them, and I could barely hold it up without resting it on my chin.

Out on the street, I saw our neighbors walking their dogs like they did every morning. The few children that lived on the city street headed off to school, shuffled along by harried professional parents with somewhere else they had to be after this, checking their watches and their cell phones as if they were ticking time bombs counting down to the end. As if being late to work were so important that they didn’t even notice the children in front of them.

I would have noticed.

I ran a hand over my stomach, already flattening, as my eyes found the tears they had been searching for.

6) Every Night by Imagine Dragons, Album: Night Visions

I trudged into the house, my bones aching from a night of battle and my soul drained from using my abilities so indiscriminately.

It was shockingly quiet. Quieter than I was expecting, with a new baby that was used to having her Mommy home with her. I made my way up the stairs and over to our room. The door was wide open, the light was on, and I found my brother standing in front of the door, a fond smile on his face.

“Did she give you guys any trouble?” I asked.

He didn’t say a word, just nodded toward the door.

7) I Will Buy You a New Life by Everclear, Album: So Much For The Afterglow

I stuffed the bills into my mother’s hand, roughly. “Pay the bills.” I pushed past her and made my way to where Marty lay, staring out the window into the sun, his eyes squinting slightly, as though they barely felt the burn.

I didn’t blame him anymore. At some point between my teenage years and now, I had grown to accept that something in my brother had snapped. He was not well. His brain had made him believe I was something I wasn’t, and he had acted out in violence against me.

Now, I blamed my mother. For not believing me, for blaming me, for refusing to get him help, for believing it would all just get better, like schizophrenia just disappears, like suddenly the world would get set right, and my little brother would wake up one morning with no voices, no paranoia, no hallucinations, no fear.

That day never came.

“Blink, Farty Marty. Your corneas will thank you.”

He looked away from the window and smiled.

8) In Between by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

The rain started slowly, but by the time she’d gotten out far enough into the woods, it pelted her, soaking into her jeans, beading on her jacket and filling her boots. Her feet slid in the mud as she moved, purposefully towards the only place she could go. Their spot.

When she got there, she almost couldn’t see through the deluge, her soaked hair hanging in her eyes, blocking her view. She squinted past raindrops to make sure she was truly seeing what was there.

He had destroyed it. It was gone.

“I wanted to tell you the other day,” he said, his voice suddenly over her shoulder, and she started.

Damn her for not paying attention. Damn him for following her out here so he could watch her find this.

9) Your Star by Evanescence, Album: The Open Door

His hands clenched and unclenched as he stood, facing the open land before him. I could practically hear his mind racing. I stepped forward, wrapping an arm around him and resting my chin on his shoulder. He leaned into the embrace, his head bumping mine.

“What if the world ends?” he asked. “What if my choices ruin everything? What if we can’t fix it?”

I tried for a smile. I was scared too, but I didn’t have the luxury of that right now. “Well, that would be unacceptable, my love. We’ll just have to rebuild it.”

10) Mr. Brightside by The Killers, Album:

“This is what I’ve been meant to do,” he explained to me, his eyes wide, his nervous energy practically leaping from him. “My purpose. I finally understand why I can do these things, what makes me special, and you want me to give that away?”

BONUS: Single by Natasha Bedingfield, Album: Unwritten

“What is the big deal about all of this anyway?” I asked, fed up with Val and all of her gushy love talk. Based on what I’d just been through, it was a struggle not to punch her in her smiling, glowing face. “You only get to be this happy for a limited time.”

Okay folks, that’s it. Leave feedback on these. What did you like? What didn’t you? Would you like to try this challenge? Definitely chat with me in the comments!

The Language-Emotion Connection

Once upon a time, my best friend, Joy, bought me a book just because she knew how much I’d love it. She had started reading it and immediately understood that it would captivate me. And because she knows me better than almost anybody, she was 100% correct. That novel was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”. Many years later, I took her to see the Broadway show for her birthday. It was equally amazing and it possessed the exact qualities that I needed it to capture from the book. I’ve spent some time thinking about this – the idea of one message being portrayed through multiple forms of media, or even multiple languages. What is essential to an effective translation?

I suppose I could start that discussion by asking a different question – what is the point of a good novel? Some would say entertainment, and I suppose, on some level that is true. But the way in which that novel entertains is by evoking emotion from the reader. When I write a story, I don’t really care if the words sound pretty, although I do strive for that as well. Words are selected solely to convey a message in the best possible way, and beautiful words go a long way towards that end. My goal is to write something that makes the reader feel. I could write beautiful flowing sentences, could use the largest vocabulary, could have the best grammar, but if nobody cares about my subject, I have failed as a writer.

For anyone who doesn’t know, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” is the story of an autistic boy named Christopher, who finds a dog dead and jumps headlong into solving the mystery despite his disability. In the course of this, Christopher learns many things about himself and his family’s secrets. The novel is written so you are told the story through the veil of Christopher’s mind. He thinks differently, sees the world differently, and so do we. The words work effectively to paint this picture. When this is translated into the form of a play, words are also used, but we are given several forms of visual and auditory stimuli to convey the differences in Christopher’s perception of the world. This is effective translation as we are left with the same feelings in the book as in the play format.

Words are tools in the art of literature, used to create a message, a feeling. That feeling – that is the thing that needs to be captured and transferred. That is the one thing that can’t be lost in translation. Whether it is in the process of transferring a piece from a textual to visual medium, or translating from one language to another, the most important thing that must be done is that we use our tools to create a message. And as long as that message endures, it really doesn’t matter what the delivery system is. As long as it evokes the same feeling within us, taps into that universal fact of humanity, the translator has done their job.

We don’t live in a closed society anymore. When we were children, my brother used to have a pen pal in Japan that he would exchange letters with and then wait weeks for a response. These days that is no longer necessary. We can send emails, sign on to chats, and accomplish that so much quicker. Websites translated via places like Smartling can connect potential customers with the proper businesses even if they are across the ocean from each other. Though our world is, geographically, a big place, and we speak thousands of languages, our global community is shrinking rapidly, because technology allows it – and translation facilitates that.

If the point of creation is to tap into a universal human experience, then it only stands to reason that the message be shared universally. The beauty in this idea that words are tools that create feeling is what it means for the spread of that message – with the proper translation, literature, and most any other medium, for that matter, can be reproduced for different audiences, can be spread far and wide for consumption. And isn’t that the most important thing?