Five reasons for writing

Over on NJ Fraser’s blog, she’s been talking about why she writes and posed the question to her readers, inspired by yesterday’s Twitter #WhyIWrite hashtag.

(Side note: I love the conversations some of those hashtags generate. Love them.)

I started to write a short and pithy response, but apparently I have Thoughts (TM) on the subject. Too many of them for a short pithy blog comment. Too thinky to get lost in comments so that I can’t look back at it the next time I’m starting at edits and wondering why on earth I do this.

So, here we go.

1. I’ve always told stories

For as long as I can remember, I’ve told stories to myself. It was my way of entertaining myself when I was somewhere I couldn’t read–on long family hikes, on long drives in the dark, after lights out–and I could keep those stories going in my head for ages. Days or weeks. Obviously, they were usually stories where I was the heroine saving the world. Everyone has to work through their Mary Sue issues, and I did most of it in my head.

Sometimes, if my sister was awake after lights out and super bored, she’d get me to tell her a story, because she knew that I always had one. Usually my sister was cast as the heroine. She’s younger and you should always let your sister be a heroine when you’re telling her the story.

I didn’t start writing stories down until I was ten or eleven and I spent a lot of my teens writing a terrible epic fantasy that never managed to end because I turned into Robert Jordan. Not all of the stories in my head get written down (Mary Sue issues, I tell you), but I can’t imagine not writing down most of them.

2. Writing brought me a community

I come from a fanfic background, and that has brought me so many friends over the years. Fellow writers and readers both. It’s an amazing community filled with people who love stories and what those stories can do. Who love fandom and genre and use stories to build on them, expand them, and comment on them. The fanfic community is my fandom home.

When I moved across the ocean, I found my first local friends through a knitting group, and from there I found the writing group that I’m part of. We talk online, we meet in person to write or hash out plots, and next month we’re going on a retreat together. They’re equally supportive of my fanfic and my original fiction, which has been amazing.

Writing seems like a solitary activity, but it can be a fantastic community.

3. Writing lets me comment as well as tell stories

Metafiction. Stories about stories. It’s one of the elements of fanfic that I love: stories that engage with and comment on the source text. Reimagine the Avengers from the films, but casting women from canon and comics to populate the team rather than the 90% testosterone we see on screen, and that’s a commentary on the source as well as being a good story (hopefully).

It’s something that can be done in original fiction, too. Retelling a classic trope or an old fairy tale and changing some element (what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up? Gender-flip the Cinderella story and how does the story change?) allows us to comment on that trope or story construction. Writing allows me to engage with and comment on other stories. And it allows me to do the same with the real world–writing a book about a librarian, I couldn’t resist throwing in some comments on library funding cuts. It’s a more fun, and sometimes more effective, way of engaging than writing huge screeds in blog posts.

4. It’s fun

Okay, not all of it is fun. I won’t lie. But it’s not all editing notes and writing painful transitional scenes. Sometimes it’s writing the big scenes you’ve been thinking about ever since you came up with the premise. Writing the battles, the revelations, the emotional climaxes. When I’m writing those scenes and caught up in the story, it’s fun.

5. I can’t stop

The stories don’t stop happening in my head just because I stop writing them down. After a while, they torment me into writing them. It’s something I do because I can’t not.

So, why do you write?

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