September 7, 2011
This week, while reading Donald Maass’s excellent book on writing*, I cringed with new awareness of problems in my novel. Maass, plus feedback from an agent who read the entire manuscript, gives me direction for improvement. Yet, rewriting is a big job that starts with reviewing the basic plot and may mean throwing away dozens of pages. Am I downhearted? A bit. So I went to bed last night asking myself if I have the energy, time (i.e. willingness to sacrifice other activities), determination, and skill to revise my novel so that it’s as good as it can be.
Which took me back to the fundamental question—why write?
On the positive side, I have something to say, based on tons of life experiences, i.e., I’m no spring chicken.
On the negative side, perhaps I express my opinion too often.
But does that mean I put in my two cents worth on every topic of conversation? Of course not! I don’t keep up on all the issues, much less have an opinion about them.
Another consideration is that my writing tends to be sparse and it lacks the richness of style, vocabulary, or depth of, say, Steinbeck, Twain, Elizabeth Moon, or Sue Monk Kidd.
But on the positive side, my take on life is unique. Everyone’s view is! My brother’s childhood experiences, for example, are vastly different from mine because of birth order, gender, his many surgeries, and the places he lived after I left home. It would be fantastic, in my opinion, if he wrote his memoirs someday, perhaps titled, “The Family According to Doug.”
In addition, I believe that what I want to write needs to be said. Writing helps me make sense of life and culture for myself, especially when there are inconsistencies in popular views. I want as many people as possible to read my work. Yes, I’m passionate about it.
On the negative side, my internal editor makes me wonder if I’ll ever be satisfied, after all is said and done, that my book is as good as it can be. For, I don’t always think logically, am too subjective to catch problems until hundreds of words later, hate criticism (I don’t know anyone who likes it!), and continually battle my internal editor.
But, on the positive side, I want to reinforce the truths I’ve learned about life. I feel compelled to show how the transcendent parts of us humans “play out” (or emerge, endure, stand strong) under pressures of youth, hardship, victory, unfairness, success, ageing, and death. I want to share the joys I’ve discovered.
Why do you write?
*Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass, 2001.