Posts Tagged ‘why I write’

There’s an evil genius lurking over at terribleminds. Some day he may use his powers for good, but until then the cornpunk puppet master known as Chuck Wendig likes to torture us less worthy creatures with writing prompts. Thanks to him, I’ve come up with ideas for several stories that I hope to eventually put together into an anthology and release into the wild. And I’ve experienced how much fun it is watching other people tormented by toddlers while enjoying my bourbon and chocolate undisturbed.

Also thanks to him I’ve learned just how much I’m not a writer.

His latest prompt wasn’t to inspire fiction, though, but to inspire thought. Hence the title above. My first response was “fuck if I know.” I just write. Sometimes it’s simply out of habit because I’ve been doing it since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Sometimes it’s therapy as I try and work through emotional issues. Most of the time I just need to escape to a place I haven’t been able to find otherwise.

And that’s where I started to really think about why I write.

I was unable to be very active as a child due to a congenital defect in my knees known as bilateral discoid meniscus. Back in the dark ages of my childhood the medical field didn’t have the imaging capabilities or the orthoscopic surgical procedures it does now. Which means most orthopedic surgeons probably didn’t know as much about the defect as the Wikipedia page I linked to above. It’s not that I couldn’t walk or run or jump: I could, but I would pay for it days afterward, with swelling and intense joint pain. Such results kind of discourage a kid from trying to do any of that stuff, so I spent most of my time indoors. When I wasn’t doing schoolwork or practicing my music, I was reading.

I devoured books by the truckload, and read far above my age/grade level. As a child growing up in the Air Force in the middle of the Space Race, science fiction made more sense to me than anything else. So while most other little girls were giggling over Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I was digging through Herbert and Heinlein and Asimov and Bradbury, and fighting my sister over who got to change the TV channel to Star Trek (the original series, in it’s original run. Yes, I’m that old…*sigh*…).

Reading and science fiction opened my eyes to worlds only a select few seemed to see. It introduced me to physics, genetics, psychology and all those other scientific fields. It showed me equal amounts hope and despair for the human race. And it wasn’t just the gadgets (though, where do you think flip phones and iPads came from?), but the exploration of ethics and morality that stuck with me. Science fiction could delve into touchy issues with less flack than regular fiction. Race relations, discrimination, sexuality, and dozens of other taboo subjects were the meat and potatoes of science fiction. I was given an education in humanity unparalleled anywhere else.

I began writing in junior high (middle school to some of ya’ll). First as an assignment in English class for a scary story at Halloween. Then as extra credit when the teacher told me how good she thought I was and read my stories in class. And finally because I just couldn’t stop, despite the teasing from the other kids about how I was obviously an alien. I had worlds to explore and people to meet and great adventures to live. It was somewhere to go where I was cool and heroic, instead of dorky and invisible.

It still is. As the real world progresses and descends deeper into madness, the need to go somewhere else increases. I read what’s out there today, and I can’t connect with most of it. The shallow characters don’t resonate with me, and the stories are often so far out there, I have no idea what they’re trying to say. It’s almost like we’ve lost touch with what it means to tell a real story, depending on gimmicks and gadgetry instead. Maybe I’m too old and set in my ways to understand this new way of things, or maybe – just maybe – the Emperor has no clothes.

Whatever the truth, I will continue to translate the voices in my head into words on the page, and hope that one day someone else will stumble upon my ramblings and discover a place they can hide for awhile, too. It’ll be nice to have the company.

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