Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why I Write

I write because it’s tidy.

No, not the process. The process sucks.

The writing process is a horrendous disaster involving way too many stimulants (all unhealthy although not, in my case, illegal), way too little sleep, and way too much self-doubt and bad temper. (Plus a little euphoria but I’m on a woe-is-me kick here so I won’t be admitting to that.)

The tidiness comes in when I take life--big scrambles of human emotion and chaos--and sort it out on paper. I write romances, so my books have happy endings. The villains get theirs, the hero and heroine get some, and my psyche is at peace knowing that these people, the fictional ones, will do what I tell them when I tell them to do it.

Non-fictional people do not respond to me in this way. They persist in leading their own messy lives, making bad decisions, living with ambiguity, and even, at times, settling for settling instead of striving for their Happily Ever After. Blech. Who wants to spend their time with people like that?

(Note: I’m not, of course, speaking of any of the actual real people in my life. These are just, you know, hypothetical real people. The people in my life are so healthily well-adjusted and serene it’s freakish. Hi, Anne!)

The made-up people follow the three-act structure. They’re not only familiar with the hero’s journey, they live it, in perfect structural order, every time. When I provide the fictional people with a brilliant insight into their motivations, for example, “You can’t commit because your mom screwed you up when she left home in 1979,” they not only get what I’m saying, they change accordingly. Their fictional black moments end after a reasonable amount of time, instead of stretching on for years or decades or entire lifetimes.

Maybe if I were able to get myself a job as the dictator of a mid-sized nation I would give up writing. Dictators no doubt get a lot of opportunities to tidy the lives of real people—for example, they can dictate that today is National Confront Your Insecurities Day and next Wednesday is National Stop Dating The Wrong Guy Day.

But until that happy time when I manage to seize power, and as long as real life remains sticky, ambiguous, and full of people who don’t do as I tell them to do, I’ll write.

And I’ll be happy while I’m doing it.

(Had to get that happily ever after in there.)

The End.

If you write, why do you do it?

Ellen

(This post was inspired by the blog, "Why We Write."