I would like to say I’ve been telling stories all my life. That somehow I knew writing was my calling. I think I loved the story first. I appreciated the glory of my father reading The Monster at the End of This Book. I hated when my teacher was finished reading the daily paragraph of The Borrowers to us in class. I loved listening to adults at parties as they told stories to each other.
When I was in 6th grade, a friend of mine called herself a writer, and she was. She was writing books. Such a thing was unheard of in my little world. Still, the mere idea of writing a book gave me a strange thrill. I thought, if she can do it, then I could do it to. So I put to pen to paper and as my adolescent scrawl filled the page something strange happened. There were no rules then, there was no fear. There was no audience other than myself. My format came from every book I had ever read until that moment. At the time my influences were a strange mix of Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Daniel Steele, all who I read under the covers at night.
I wrote, and it was my first hit of a drug I didn’t understand. I started writing and the world around me fell away, one by one, walls were demolished, my hands worked of their own volition, the roof lifted off the house, I was transported through that hurricane that took Dorothy and her little dog, but I didn’t arrive at some emerald city. I kept on weathering the storm. It was a new high that clutched at my soul and screeched into my void that I belonged to its power now. I gave in and bowed to its power and promised my life to that god then and there.
I didn’t tell anyone about my secret, but I continued to write my stories whenever I could, when no one would catch me. I wrote to run away. I wrote to become someone else. I wrote to get to that sacred place where I rode on dust particles that sparkled in the sun. Where I could smell previous lives under the paint on the walls. Where I felt weightless and heavy; utterly conscious and dreamy.
After that, after my first few years of writing, I realized I had to do it. I yearned for it. I write because of that old adage that writing is like breathing. When I don’t write I notice I’m punchy and angry and aggravated. My world is off kilter and nothing fills the void except writing.
I came out of the proverbial writing closet when I was 24 and took my first fiction writing class. It was horrible and glorious. I learned how to take criticism and still have a voice when the smoke cleared. I learned a lot more about myself than writing and when all was said and done, I was still writing.
I write for that sweet spot, when the world falls away and my hands fly across the keyboard and the story develops its own life and I’m along for the ride and there is no effort and it’s heady and it all feels so right.
I write to feel whole.
I write for the notebook I have to keep next to my bed. For great lines that won’t let me sleep, that tickle my funny bone and are the start of stories that I write around one simple phrase: “Even the cats have stripper names.”
I write so that something isn’t just old. “There is history at every turn in this city. The walls radiate life, but this city is dirty, it’s a dirt we don’t have in America. Ancient dirt; a mixture of empires, art eras, popes, kings, and dynasties.”
I write because when I travel, I don’t just want to see a place and take home pictures. I want to climb into a places skin and rip out its soul: “Rome is a dark, greasy man who is taunt and muscular from his years of hard labor. He smells of earth and perspiration and something more…there is a trace of the early empires on his skin.”
I write to explain the most mundane of moments and make them joyful: “Jesus, how many pictures was this photographer going to take? He’d taken so many damn pictures, his smile had become plastic. Smiling was like saying a word over and over until it lost its meaning and became something foreign to the ears.”
I even write so that I can watch the moment when my creativity comes to an end. So I can catch the last glimpse of my imaginative ghosts as they fall to the floor in ashes.
I write so that I can conjure up odes to Mark Twain, the patron saint of writing.
I write so that I can paint my observations in black Times New Roman on a white page.
I write because nothing has ever filled me with greater power or despair. I write to get to the next moment of bliss when the world disappears and I’m as high as a kite.
I write so that when someone poses a question, I can go on and on and bore them with flowery details of an answer.
I write because, when you strip away the business of it – the query letters, the synopsis, the writer bios – it is so much damned fun.