Why Write?

writingPaul Anderson explores why people are drawn to writing in Manifesto, his Write Anything column today … and why he in particular writes.

Here is why I have written in the past and continue to do so now.

While there have been times when I have stopped writing, I’ve never forgotten how much I love to write and always known I will return. Writing is not only a safe harbour, but a comfy pair of shoes or coat you haven’t worn for a while which offers up forgotten delights in pockets.

I have been writing since I was ten years old. I discovered the thrill of writing in a set of picture/story exercises in Grade Five as part of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles that year. I only had to do one, but I did three – recounting the travails of Australian mascot Willy in various different events. It was one of those things – once started I couldn’t stop.  Twenty-five years later I’m still at it.

I wrote initially because I had the epiphany I could. I found I loved getting lost in words and worlds. When I look back at what was going on for me aged 10, I’m not surprised I was drawn to writing as it allowed me to control and orchestrate events on the page at a time when I was feeling swept away and mauled by events in my own life.

Later on in high school I began writing lengthier “novels” after a teenage literary hissy fit upon reading one of my cousin’s Sweet Valley High books. I started writing a manuscript (which I still have) because I was certain I could write something better – at least something a little less saccharine sweet. I initially wrote it for my cousin Melissa, but was soon writing it for my own entertaiment. It was arrogant  to think I could write better than a published author but it kept me at the page – and what was only meant to be 20 pages blew out to well over 100 pages during the summer.

I later went on to re-write that manuscript when we moved from Queensland to Victoria and I got a huge kick out of my friends taking turns in reading what I had written. I kept writing because I loved being read. Writing was also something which allowed me to stand out in my peer group as something unique (when I felt anything but) and as a new girl, at a new school, provided me with an “in”. It also kept me company in the lonely weeks as I tried to find my footing in a new school.

As I got older I wrote to try and make sense of the world I lived in. It was also a safe way to explore. I was not a particularly wayward teenager (who knows where I would have strayed had I not been straying on the page) but some of the themes I explored in my writing showed there was a gritty interior behind the sweet smile.

I lived a lot in my head … and being on the page was somehow a way for me to be both in myself and out side of myself at the same time.  It was a fantasy world where not only was I God but fashionista and beauty queen living through and via the girls and women in my writing. While lots of my characters were savvy and confident, they all had a very vulnerable core – and there were few happy endings.

Then, now, in the future – I will always write for the thrill of being part of a story as in unfolds.  There have been times when I’ve realised I’m holding my breathe as a I write, so caught up in the drama on the page (writing Demon Lover was one those moments and one of the reasons I love being an author on The Astonishing Adventures of Captain Juan). 

It was (and is) a form of escapism – but not of wanting to run away from the world I live in, but wanting to be in a different world … I’m not even sure if that makes sense? It’s like going travelling for the adventure rather than running away overseas.

I remember the dislocation I would feel as a teenager after being hunched over my desk for hours scribbling free hand.  It was like being dragged back, often unwilling (as my Mum called me to dinner) from another dimension.  I would often sit there and need to spend a couple of minutes reorientating myself with my surroundings, renegotiating my feelings. I don’t get this so much – but unlike my teenage years I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on end absorbed in one of my stories.

If I am totally honest about why I write now, I do so because I have to.  It is the air I breathe. The creative outlet that keeps me sane.  Writing makes me happy. Writing gives me a sense of freedom which few things are able to do any more.

1 thought on “Why Write?

  1. Exciting post. I’m tempted to follow yours and Paul’s lead and write why I write, but I might have written a post like that in one form or anther on my blog before. I’ll have to check.

    I guess my reason for writing now is mostly to make sense of the world and to contextualise it, how it feels rather than just the facts. Whilst it can’t replace hard theory and political argument, I hope my stories get across the way I see the world in another way…


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