One of the questions I get asked a lot, and I’m sure most writers do as well, is one that cuts to the bone of our motivations.
What made you want to become a writer?
It is a well-meaning question, asked by those who truly don’t understand that writing is less of a choice than a drive or a need, at least for me.
I’ve been writing stories since I learned how to print my letters. Stories have been in my blood from the very beginning. I learned to read when I was two years old, and I was writing before I started school. I’ve mentioned before that in first and second grade I had a following of girls who would join me in the grassy field during recess while I told them tales that I created on the spot. We would make clover chains and discuss faeries and talking animals and creating magic potions. There’s a meme out there about how little girls instinctively form covens and I’m here to tell you that, at least for me, that was so true.
I wrote my first book at age six, and it was a total rip-off of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan – okay, okay, it was inspired by it. I even illustrated it, and made it into a stapled chapbook, foreshadowing of my ‘zine days to come. I loved every bit of doing this, and from that moment on, I was hooked on being a writer.
To me, it made sense. I was a voracious reader. I told myself stories all the time. Why wouldn’t I be writing books?
I had a lot of stops and starts on my path of sharing my words. I wrote poetry, music, short stories. I published them myself in my ‘zines, and had them published in other ‘zines and small press publications. I blogged online, fairly religiously. I wrote in my personal journal daily, and some of the things I crafted there became shared pieces.
And I started abortive attempts at novel writing. None were successful, at least not for a very long time.
It wasn’t until I revisited my notes for the world of the Eleriannan, as I looked for inspiration during the pandemic lockdown, that I started to see how the stories I’d begun and then abandoned could be fleshed out. They’d been waiting for me to get to the right place in my mind and in my life.
Everything is terrible! Let’s write a book!
Now that I’m into the editing portion of Cast A Shadow Of Doubt, I have time to read for pleasure. That’s a good thing, because I have a BIG stack of TBRs, and the one on the top of the stack is Never Say You Can’t Survive, by Charlie Jane Anders.
I’ve been dying to read this, and so far it has not disappointed. The subtitle is How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories, and if that isn’t directed straight to my heart, I don’t know what is. Chapter five in particular has hit home for me, because it talks about writing the things that comfort you when the world is burning. One sentence in particular jumped out at me and brought tears to my eyes.
“Write whatever you need to survive.” – Charlie Jane Anders
Her point is that we get a lot of messages about what we are “supposed” to be writing. Some of those are external, others internally designed to make us feel like we’re not good enough as writers. [yay for that, brains]
However, our actual job as writers is to bring forth what we need in the world. And not what we think everyone needs – no, I should write what I specifically need or want. You should do the same. Write the thing that gives you heart to go on, that allows you to get up in the morning, that fills a space in your life that was lacking before you addressed it with your words.
THAT is when writing brings joy, when it rings out clearly across the empty spaces that needed those words, those ideas, that specific story. Writers who embrace this philosophy are easy to spot, at least to me. Reading their stories is an authentic experience.
And that is why I was able to write In Sleep You Know, when before I’d never been able to finish writing a novel. It was something I needed, a moment where possibilities exist and magic is real but what really matters are the choices that one makes… Especially the choices that bring friends together and create family and community.
And Cast A Shadow Of Doubt embraces those values even more. I cannot wait to share it with you, because these stories are what I need to see in the world, and I am hoping that they are for you, as well.