When I was young I decided I wanted to become a writer. I taught myself how to type by writing stories in an early DOS version of Word, saving my stories onto a floppy disk and printing some of them to share with my family. At the time it seemed simple. I just wanted to write fun, silly stories, even if my limited audience didn’t appreciate them in the same way that I did.
Later on in elementary school I was lucky enough to take a GT writing class with Dan Simmons, a popular local author, which allowed me to flex my authorial muscles further. It also led to an interesting comment that I thought about for years after that. On one of my stories, Simmons wrote a comment that it was very “Tolkienesque”. I was and remain a huge fan of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, and at the time I took it to be quite a compliment, though that impression faded as I grew older. To be fair, I don’t know how Simmons intended that comment, and I suspect he was trying to encourage me by referencing my favorite author. But whatever he intended, I thought about it a lot and eventually I realized that I didn’t want to write in a Tolkienesque style. I want to write like myself, and I’m not really anything like Tolkien. It took a long time to figure out how to deal with that, and sometimes I’m still not sure how to tell the stories that I have inside of me.
That’s a doubt that’s followed me through the years. I’ve taken many other writing classes over the years, and I’ve studied literature extensively through the course of my college studies, but I still sometimes ask stop and ask myself, “Why do I write?”
1. To Share Ideas
A significant portion of this blog exists to share ideas. Ideas about education and unschooling, or parenting in general. These are generally difficult things for me to write, and often take multiple drafts before I’m marginally satisfied with the results, and still I wonder how often I effectively convey my thoughts. Perhaps it doesn’t matter – if my blogging connects with and helps someone else then it’s been worth it.
2. To Tell Stories
I love reading stories. Fictional or true, the act of telling and sharing stories enriches the human experience at a fundamental level, and I’ve always loved being a part of that process. That’s why I read, and that’s also an important facet of why I write. I want to tell stories that mean something to me, and hopefully that will mean something to other people as well.
3. To Inspire My Children
My children know that I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author. They also know that writing is something that I do regularly. Not every day, but I make an effort to let them see me writing and I share my blog with them. As a parent this is particularly important because part of my job is to encourage my children to pursue their dreams, whatever they are. I can’t do this effectively if they don’t see me pursuing my dreams as well.
Writing is difficult and frustrating. Sometimes I sit to write, and confronted by a blank page find myself struggling to put down a single adequate word. Even when I finish writing something I’m rarely confident enough to share it. Indeed, for every post that makes it onto this blog there are five or six abandoned posts and drafts that will never be shared with anyone else. Indeed, I’ve attempted to write on this particular topic on four separate occasions before now.
At the same time writing can also be wonderfully therapeutic. Spending a few hours with a cup of coffee, getting ideas and stories out of my head and into written form simply feels good. Even when the words I write are never shared, writing can become an emotional and mental release that lets me relax and escape from the stresses of life for a time. Writing doesn’t rid me of my depression or anxiety, but it does help me manage them.
What Does the Future Hold?
I struggle sometimes with this blog, not only because I find it difficult to write regularly and lack confidence in many of the things I write, but also because relatively few people read it. In the big scheme of things the lack of an audience shouldn’t matter – you’ll note that I didn’t list becoming famous or making piles of cash as a reason for writing – yet stories and ideas need to be shared, and without readers there can be no sharing. Large readership or not, I’m going to continue writing here. I’m approaching the 100 post mark for the year, and though many of these are photograph-related, I have a whole lot of things I want to continue writing about.
Last month I met another writing goal that I’ve had for a long time. To write a book. Some fourteen years ago while working a night security job, an idea for a novel began to grow in my head. I attempted to write it at the time, though I didn’t make much progress, and I’ve made many aborted attempts to write it over the years, rarely getting more than a chapter or two into it. Last year during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) I started fresh, and began writing it in earnest. Though my previous attempts were generally unsuccessful, they did help me think through various aspects of the characters and plot, and this time I was able to make a lot of progress indeed.
I didn’t finish it last November, but I wrote far more than I ever had before, and I continued to work on it in small pieces throughout the year, and yesterday I finally finished a completed draft of my first book.
It feels amazing. As a first draft it’s not remotely ready to share or attempt to find a publisher who might be willing to consider it. It’s going to take long months – or even years – of rewriting and revision before it’s at that point, but that’s okay. I have a complete draft, and that feels pretty fantastic, whether or not anything comes of it.
Whatever the outcome, as long as I’m pursuing something that I love and modeling that sort of pursuit for my children, then writing will always be worth it.