Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why We Write and Why We Don’t Stop


by Velda Brotherton

Ever think of why you write? I do. Lately I've been thinking a lot about it. Yet, when everything goes wrong and I swear there are other things I’d rather do, and take a few days off just to see,  I’m convinced I’m right where I belong. It’s more of a calling than a career. Because, let’s face it, there’s not much money or fame involved, like in the movies about writers. So I made a short list.

§  I write because of all the things I want to say that haven't yet been said.

§  I write because there are people in my head who wake me in the middle of the night.

§  I write because it's fulfilling to my soul.

§  I write because I'm not much good at anything else, though I've tried other things.

§  I write because I am.

To tell the truth, I haven’t stopped this maddening pursuit once since that rainy winter day when I sat down with a notebook and began to scribble out my first novel back in 1983. {A little aside here. That novel was published the end of 2014 as Beyond the Moon, so keep those old efforts.} Stories and voices plague me every day and most nights. It's like being haunted by real people who want their stories told and I dare not ignore them. What worries me is what will happen to them when I can no longer answer their plea? I have visions of them wandering about as if on a vast desert, calling out to me in anguish.

Mostly, this writing life is a great life and I enjoy all that goes with it. The good, the bad, the wonderful. You thought I was going to finish that off with the ugly, and I might have, except I couldn’t think of anything in this business I call ugly. Promotion comes close, but I’m learning to enjoy it with the help of my new publisher, who just happens to believe that his company should help out in that department. This may be the coming change in publishing.

Here's a list of things I've tried at one time or another to occupy my spare time:

§  Leather Work: One can only make so many billfolds, key chain tags, and belts before running out of customers.

§  Teaching Piano: This one filled a lot of satisfying hours, but didn't challenge me much. After ten years, I had to quit. Writing had taken over my life.

§  Painting in Oils: After accumulating three or four dozen paintings I ran out of places to put them. A few sold and I managed to convince some people, mostly family, that they needed one ‘cause I would one day be famous.

§  Quilting: After a disastrous and humorous afternoon at a quilting frame that resulted in my mother falling down laughing, I decided this definitely wasn't my calling.

§  Sewing: I enjoyed this and for years bought no clothes but hubby's work clothes. I was never the seamstress my mother was. She could look at something, cut out a pattern from her head and sew up a right nice outfit.

§  Giving Hubby a hard time: Acceptable during any phase of career changes.

§  Cooking: Baking is my favorite, but why cook what you shouldn’t eat?

§  Gardening: Had some good years with this venture, grew fantastic crops, canned, froze, and ate them. Then my body played a trick on me and wore out.

Why did I have time to devote to all these endeavors? In our late 30s we quit our jobs in 1972 and left the dizzying life of commuters in New York and came to Arkansas, determined to raise what we needed to eat. At my uncles urging we bought a few cattle to graze on a fenced acreage of pasture. Encouraged, we then bought some rabbits and chickens and settled down as back-to-the-landers. A wonderful time when I learned to butcher chickens, rabbits and even a hog (once was enough of that). Because eating wasn’t our only need, my husband got a job that didn’t involve stress and we settled into our country home.

As you can imagine the office I write in today has gone through many phases. It once held a sewing machine and stacks of material. I made almost all our clothes. I knitted sweaters and learned to crochet, which is something else I'm not intended to do. During my music teacher phase it held an old upright piano and an electronic piano. I kept my saddle there too because the barn was across the road and open to one and all, including my lovely precocious, ornery Tennessee Walker Katy. I rode her frequently, thus filling more time with an enjoyable hobby. Had to give that up, too. See reason stated after gardening above.

The next time you get upset, or moan and groan over your chosen occupation, think about why you write, how you manage to remain in the profession, and make a list of what you might do if you quit. Then tear it up, sit down and go to work on your next writing project, ‘cause you know you gotta love this life or, like me, you’d be butchering chickens, raising cattle, crocheting sweaters, or fill in the blanks from your own list.



John Biggs said...

Hey Velda, if you have any more time to spare, how about ghosting a novel for me. I like your style.

Charles Gramlich said...

Arkansas eh? I grew up on a farm there. Finally got back to the country after Hurricane Katrina down here. But I plan to retire back to Arkansas

Liane Spicer said...

Books have always been my calling--reading them, teaching them, writing them. There are other things that I enjoy, like gardening and hiking, but books have always come first. Writing enables me to work through issues, play with what-ifs, be in control of outcomes, and so much more.

Marlow Kelly said...

I wish I could say writing was my calling, but it's the hard work I out in because, like you, I have characters in my head that want their stories told. And like you they talk to me all the time, firing me to tell their stories.
One day, I'll stop, but not today.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much to each of you who commented on my post here at Novel Spaces. I really appreciate that you took the time to read and comment.

Brigid Amos said...

I so relate to this post. Recently I realize that there are things that I have to do, and yes, they get in the way of my writing. The trick is to get rid of all those things I think I should do, but really don't have to do.