What drives Writers to write?


Rowena here …

Following on from Dave and Amanda’s posts, I came across Chuck Wendig doing his 25 things on the topic of Self Publishing. You have to hand it to Chuck, he doesn’t pull his punches.

It’s funny how things come together. Over the weekend I was on a panel where we writers were talking about Resonance and the things that help us get into the zone to write. For most writers it is music and for a lesser number it is visuals. The panel was really interesting because it gave me an insight into the many different ways a writer can come at a book.

But one of the writers talked about writing from a Dark Place. This person had undergone terrible events in their childhood which would have crippled a lesser person. It was these terrible events that helped them to create truly frightening scenes in their books.

By chance, I spent this evening helping my daughter put together lesson plans for year 10 English students on Roald Dahl’s autobiography. He was sent away to boarding school where he was bullied and mistreated, and he was utterly miserable. But look at the wonderful whimsical books he wrote. In a completely different way he triumphed over his childhood.

One of the audience at the panel asked if you had to have suffered in life to write. (Show me someone who hasn’t suffered in life). But their point was, if you’ve lived a relatively normal life, what can you bring to your writing to give it depth? Will it have the highs and lows? Will it have verisimilitude?

I think some people are like the colour on the old TV sets, you could fiddle with it and turn it right up or down. Some people feel intensely and they don’t need earth shattering events to go from ecstatic to angsty.

How much of our writing is us trying to figure out the world?  Sure, we dress it up in story with characters, but we’re exploring themes that trouble us. I keep coming back to discrimination and persecution. I’ve been to the primary sources and read biographies. I’ve researched the psychology of it and I still have trouble getting my mind around it.

Where does your writing spring from? Is it a dark place? Do you tackle it by responding with satire or whimsy? Some of the funniest books spring from the darkest places. Do you find yourself coming back to the same theme over and over again?



8 thoughts on “What drives Writers to write?

  1. “Some people feel intensely and they don’t need earth shattering events to go from ecstatic to angsty.”

    Saying, “this is me”, almost sounds like bragging… “I feel intensely!” But it’s the truth that I’ve never had trouble empathizing with the bad stuff in the real world and even though my own life has been remarkably trouble-free (certainly others have it far far worse) I’d rather not read/watch something produced with the intention of yanking my emotions around and making me feel simply for the sake of making me feel. That’s not to say I don’t like to have the full range of highs and lows in my entertainment, but for every tragedy I want a triumph or what’s the point? If I want hopelessness I can watch the news.

    It does make writing the hard emotions more difficult, though. I have no idea either how people who have had particularly hard lives do it, because it seems to me that writing it requires extra wallowing. If I write something even moderately sad I end up bawling. I’m inclined to avoid what I know will be hard that way. It takes a lot of “psyching up” to get past that.

    1. Synova, I think creative people are like the TVs set to high colour contrast. They feel intensely and then they have talk, write, paint, etc to convey how they feel.

      I can’t watch the news. It makes me angry, sad and frustrated. So I just don’t watch it. Why torture yourself. And after all, it’s only the skewed world view of TV stations with an agenda.

  2. I doubt anyone’s life has been so completely trouble free that they haven’t had a taste of the darkness. From that springboard you can imagine much worse.

    I think perhaps what makes the writer is what Sarah, on her blog a week ago or so, called the one who watches. At the same time were sitting in the hospital waiting room, terrified of what the doctor will say, we’re also taking note on how we’re feeling and reacting, how the other family members are reacting . . . and we remember, even after the doctor comes out with better than expected news.

    1. Pam, as a child I used to think everyone watched, analysed and wondered.

      But I’ve come to suspect that an awful lot of people seem to be like the balls in those all pin-ball machines, just bouncing from one encounter to the next with no real idea of where they are going or why. Maybe I’m wrong.

  3. I write to get the voices in my head to leave me alone, or at least be civil. I’ve got one scene (Err..I guess that’s what you’d call it) that I have to write soon or I’m going to lose it because this character won’t leave me alone. I’ve had my ups and downs, and another scene that I’m kind of afraid to write is going to come right out of the pain I felt from one of the “downs” but overall, I don’t really think I ever had much of a choice about writing.

  4. Jim, that’s how I feel. The things just keep nagging at me.

    At the panel on Saturday, the writer who’d had such a terrible childhood was saying that while the writing of things was harrowing, it was a great way to excorcise the demons of their past.

  5. Chuck is such a delicate soul. I got the angst in his post.

    I suspect my subconscious has a candle. And it works overtime. I had to wake up and write down the ideas I had on a book/story about a high function autistic kid last night. A good third of my most disturbing ideas arrive in full-color when I am supposed to be asleep (ergo, the bedside pad and pen).

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