What does it mean to be a writer, anyway?

I’ve a mind to talk about something more philosophical today, so I’d like to discuss with you a little bit about writing as an activity. I’ve had enough of talking just about myself and my work. Shameless self-promotion, while necessary, is not actually something I’m very comfortable with. For as much as I write, I’m not actually very comfortable writing about me. As a writer of fiction, I habitually create a comfortable shield around myself in the form of my characters. They do the talking for me. They show emotion, some of it mine and some of it not – they express opinions, a hodgepodge of things I do believe, once believed, or have observed others to believe. When you read my fiction, you’re seeing a broken glass reflection of me. There are pieces there which are whole, some of which fit together. There are jagged edges and deception in what you see. It’s an illusion, really, but it’s based on something quite real.

When I said I wanted to discuss writing, this is the kind of thing I was talking about.

Every person who writes, even if it’s just a page of prose or a verse of poetry now and then, writes for a different reason. While many people find writing to be a chore, I think most of us who write do so to start with because it is fun. Before this most recent move I had a roomate who would occasionally run into me in the halls, pale-faced and sleep deprived from spending my limited free time on Tragedy. Our conversations typically went something like…

Roomate: “So, how’s it going?”

Me: “I just wrote 2,000 words… I’m out of words…”

Roomate: “Wow, that’s rough.”

Me: “Rough? No, it’s… it’s great.”

My roomate, of course, was not a writer. To him the idea of spending hours in front of computer screen with a word document and music blaring might be some kind of torture. For me, though… for me that time spent in another world so far from the hospital was my escape (still is my escape, I should add). The adventure of writing and the challenge of marrying the right characters with the right story is as enjoyable if not more so than sitting down to play a videogame. Lord knows I only have so much patience for The Sims.

Beyond the recreational aspect, writing can take on a more profound meaning. Naturally I can only speak for myself (is that not the point of a blog, anyway?), but my writing has most always been about communicating the stories of the characters in a way which evokes sympathy from the reader. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories that are character-driven, the kind of work that explores the motivations of people in a provocative fashion. I enjoy writing the same kind of stories I enjoy reading – I can’t say with certainty that I am always successful, but I do know that writing has opened my own mind in many ways, helped me test the boundaries of my own biases. In my humble opinion, a great story is one which helps the reader learn something about themselves or about the world that they didn’t know before.

Really, the same can be said for any form of art. Creative endeavors can be tremendous tools for personal betterment and even social change. It communicates with us, normalizes behaviors, and gives us the chance to expand beyond our sometimes-limited perspectives. Exposing ones self to creativity is just as important as playing the role of creator, as we humans learn the most from those around us.

I do apologize for the rambling nature of this post, but nonetheless hope you found it entertaining. To close, I’d like to leave you with a few artists who have expanded my mind over the years, odd as they may seem on first glance: Richard Bach, author of Illusions; Anne Bishop, author of The Black Jewels Trilogy; The Barenaked Ladies, the band which kept me sane through my adolescence; and Lindsey Stirling, whose music played in the background during most of the draft of Tragedy.

What artists have inspired and enlightened you?

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Writing as escape | Words can change your life

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