Why You Must Write the Stories You Love

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I have always believed that a writer must write the sorts of stories they love to read. Writing for market trends — known as “being a hack” — was never something I could nor wanted to do. Since childhood, I created my stories from whatever my imagination seized upon. As an adult, I continue the practice. I don’t think we will ever learn completely why stories are written and where the ideas originate. Some of them are, of course, based upon personal experience, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For those of us who craft tales about characters much different from ourselves, having experiences we have never had, in locales we have never been able to visit, there’s no explanation for writing what we do. I couldn’t explain to you in a million years why I keep circling back to eighteenth century France in my own work. Something beckons me and I have no idea what it is. I only know I have to acknowledge the call.

I grew up believing it was natural for writers to flex their imaginations in whichever direction they were drawn. That with a sharply – honed  sense of empathy combined with proper research, we could place ourselves in the shoes of a completely different person and experience life through their eyes for a while. Whenever I follow this instinct, my writing breathes in a way it never could if I did not. To me, this dedication, this passion, is what bestows life everlasting upon a book. It is, indeed, the very essence of being a writer.

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Unfortunately, I am witnessing what appears to be a slow but steady erosion of the writing spirit. There are many voices now saying that it’s not a writer’s place to craft stories too far removed from their own sphere of earthly existence. Some voices scream, others whisper or imply, but make no mistake, all speak the same message: It is inappropriate to stretch your imagination. Giving life to characters outside one’s own race, culture, gender, religion, sexual preference, state of health, or life experiences is over-reach that cannot be tolerated. It reeks of privilege and appropriation.

I have been watching these debates rage for a while now in real-life and online. I’ve withdrawn from several writing forums because of them and dedicated a lot of brain power to the subject, brain power that would have been better applied to writing stories. If these ideas are taken to the extreme that many in the publishing world wish to take them, we will be left with little more than unsatisfying memoirs as author Lionel Shriver noted. Imagine what our bookshelves would look like if writers never left the confines of their own life experiences on the page. We would be deprived of many great works and the shimmering richness that makes up the reading world we all love.

Though I can be moody (how typical) and an epic procrastinator among other things, I consider myself a basically good person. I place a high value on all life forms. I endeavor to be respectful and honest. And for years I have sought to expand my consciousness through spiritual searching. Those who know me very well would (hopefully) describe me as a good friend and a sympathetic ear. Outside of self-defense, I would never intentionally harm other human beings. But I maintain a hardline stance on unabridged freedom of artistic expression for creative as well as legal purposes. Naturally, we should strive for accuracy and excellence in all that we do, but the writer’s imagination should never be shackled by the political rhetoric du jour.

Indeed, it is the writer’s duty to portray and preserve the stories of humanity in all their beauty as well as their ugliness, to seek out the beating heart of human experience and capture it on the page for others to find. We can learn a great deal from the arts. Studies have shown that avid readers have more empathy and higher EQ than non-readers. That says a lot about the importance of honest writing.

I will continue to write what my imagination embraces, write the stories that reveal themselves to me, uncensored. I am too authentic to fake things, too in love with my trade to dumb it down. I don’t foresee my work getting a great deal of flack, but for those writers whose work will  leave them more vulnerable to criticism, I hope they are also willing to follow the siren song of the stories within that seek release.

In closing: Always write honestly. Always write what you are called to write. Refusing to do so will only strangle your voice and flood the bookstores with mediocrity.

Write on.

 

Why Do Writers Love Coffee Shops?

This writer chick can think of a few good reasons.

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*** An article I originally wrote for The Odyssey Online in 2017.***

Pop culture insinuates that writers and coffee shops go together like peanut butter and jelly. I have even seen memes on Facebook goofing on writers “feeling the need” to “be seen” in coffee shops. Apparently, some people view this as a vanity on the writer’s part, whom is assumed to be a hopeless and self-absorbed amateur, trying to prove they are a real writer.

 

1. It Fosters Creativity

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Sometimes a change of scenery really does “clear out the cobwebs,” so to speak. An influx of new energy can breathe life back into your piece or back into your writing brain if you find yourself struggling.

2. It’s Easier to Concentrate and Drift Off Into Story Land

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Some writers would surely argue on this point as they find themselves too easily distracted by the hustle and bustle around them. That is understandable. For me, it works the opposite way. At home, with the TV on, the phone ringing, adorable cats and dogs demanding attention, and conversations possibly relevant to me taking place, I frequently lose my focus. Removing myself from those distractions can be valuable particularly since I only bring notebooks with me.

Anyone who knows me well understands that my laptop does not leave the house. It is far too precious a tool to me and I have imagined too many “nightmare scenarios” (I drop it in a parking lot, it gets destroyed in an accident, curious black bear breaks into car and crushes it, and so forth and so forth) to take the risk. It also eliminates the possibility of jumping onto that delightful time-suck known as Facebook or adding more items to my wishlist on Etsy. (Yep, I also silence my phone and conceal it safely in my handbag when I am alone and getting serious about my work. No apps for me!)

3. It’s Inspiring

Writing in eating and drinking establishments can also be deeply inspiring. Any writer who reads “how-to” articles (and most of us are obsessed) will tell you that we are commonly advised to people-watch and even politely eavesdrop on conversations to learn how real humans speak and therefore how characters should speak. Yes, creepy creative people are watching you!

 

4. FOOD AND DRINK!

Lastly, coffee is found in these places. Coffee. And brownies. And cookies. And sometimes the cookies are even warm. Who could resist that?

Write on!

Cover Image Credit: pixabay
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