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.