Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why I Write

Someone asked me, many years ago, why I chose to be a writer. Of all the things I could have done, why this? It is an unstable profession; any writer will tell you that. You have years when the books sell like hotcakes, the short stories rack up the accolades, and you are everyone's darling. Then there are the years when you look at your thinning bank account and curse your adventurousness in staying in the world of the self-employed. You're either on top of the world or you're not. There is rarely any in-between step there.

But there is the flip-side of the business, which is the fact that some people were just born to write. Some of us have no choice. We have stories in our heads that have to find their way out onto paper. There are things we have to say, or they will drive us crazy. For some writers, the need to write is in their blood.

I remember watching Mom as she typed out one story after another on her old Brother word processor. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the clicking, and when I wandered into the dining room there she would be, surrounded by stacks of books and papers. Sometimes she noticed my presence. More often than not, she didn't, and those were my favorite selfish times. I would stand at the entrance of the dining room and watch her. Her eyes were distant, her hands were flying over the keys, and she was so lost in the story that she had become a part of the story. It was all over her face, that look of awe or loss or happiness, depending.

And I would think, every time...I wish I could write like that.

A few years later, I was sitting at my own typewriter, pounding away at my first novel. It was about Jeff and Angela and the old horse farm and the horse named Skipper. I was so lost in it that I didn't hear anyone calling me for dinner. I didn't hear anyone coming around to look over my shoulder. I didn't hear anything until I was too tired to see the keys and I looked at the clock and it was past midnight.

I had been writing for ten hours.

That's when it hit me, hard as one of those old Royal manual typewriters dropped from above -- This is what Mom did. This is how it feels!

Sometimes I would hear someone say they had "found their calling" to do something. That they had been shown, somehow, someway, what they were meant to do. When I fell into that paper and lost myself in another world, when the clicking of those keys and the dinging of that carriage return became the music that paced my very breathing, I knew.

I think about that often lately. I haven't been writing here much, I know. And this entry is actually from a draft I started months ago and never got back to until now. That's because I've been writing one book after another and I've neglected this blog. My apologies for that -- I know there are those out there who read it quite often.

Over the last six months, I have written over 120,000 words. The stories and the novel have flowed out of me like water out of a spring, and I've been reminded almost every day of watching my mother at her typewriter, losing herself in the page.

I've been losing myself in the pages. And it feels absolutely wonderful -- it feels like home.

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