Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why Do We Torture Ourselves?

Ever since I finished my mega revision last week, I've been TIRED. The day after Christmas tired. The just got home from Disneyland tired. The sleep for twelve hours and still take two naps during the day tired. (Yes, I did that today.)

I've thought a lot about why we writers do this to ourselves. Writing a novel isn't a picnic in the park, a dreamy thing you do while sitting in a flowered meadow while the words come flowing to your brain. Like any form of creation, it is a violent act. Light ripping apart from darkness. Division in the mind, the heart. It makes you question everything you thought you believed in. It exposes all your weaknesses. Sometimes you feel like you are everything. Sometimes, like nothing. These fictional characters have a will as fierce as your own. They demand their stories be told, no matter how busy you are, how sleep deprived.

So why go through with it when writing is, in fact, a very effective form of torture?

I started writing this novel during the busiest, most stressful and inconvenient time of my life. I had just donated a kidney and, though I'd finished recovering physically from the experience, my emotions were still working their way back up. It didn't helped that I'd just moved across the country. Everything was different. My husband was working a job where he was gone night and day. I felt like a single mother raising three young children. Nothing "bad" was happening, but my mind was exhausted to the point where I was crying like a leaky faucet for several hours a day. Not sobbing...not even sad...just overwhelmed. Drip, drip, drip. I couldn't turn it off.

Then I got that crazy idea. The one that said, "Hey, you should write a book." What was I thinking? I have absolutely no idea.

But guess what? In the act of adding something new to my insane life--more importantly, of CREATING something, something I could control (or so I thought until I met my characters)--I began to feel...better. Because I was doing something. Yes, I'd been doing plenty of things, but now I was doing something that spoke to that part deep inside me that seemed to be wondering if I'd forgotten all about her.

So I got to know her more.

She's a bit of a beast, that deep-buried Katie. She's wildly sensitive, quick-tempered, emotional and curious. She frightens me sometimes. But we're becoming better friends. I think I can live with this girl.

She is why I push myself beyond my seemingly impossible limits. Why I crash and burn after imposing crazy deadlines on myself. Why I agonize over perfecting pages, sentences, word counts, verbs.

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it...all the torture. I will think I need a long relaxing break. But then after a nap or a bowl of ice cream, that inner Katie pokes her head up and says, "All right, girl. I'm ready for some more. Let's do it." I smile and sigh and say, "Okay."

So, dear writer friends, tell me, why do you write? What drives you to push through the madness?


  1. Beautiful post. You've written how I feel about writing, too. Isn't it amazing how we can go from elated to despair about our writing...even in the same day?

    Why do I write? Lame as it sounds, I write because I can't NOT write. Kinda wish I could 'not write', but that inner Ilima haunts and taunts until I succumb and put pen to paper...or finger to keyboard? :)

  2. This was a great post! I agree with you; writing can be torturous at times. It does beg the question why we put ourselves through it all. For me, I started writing - writing seriously anyway - for escapism. I loved living in somebody else's world, and sitting at my desk writing was a way to get away from all the crazy things going on in life. I also write for that amazing feeling of accomplishment and pride you get from it. The day I finished my first ever novel was probably the proudest day of my life; I just couldn't believe that I'd actually done it! It was amazing. So I guess you could say for all the lows, there are equally, and sometimes even better, highs to be had from writing too!

  3. Well written. Let's see, why do I write? Because a great friend of mine convinced me to try and once I got started on this big huge, always wanted to do dream of mine, I couldn't stop.
    Even with all the torture and emotional roller coaster that writing is, I am addicted to creating, to putting in my word count, to having goals I can achieve and see (unlike the housework-I swear it was clean at some point). So anal retentive me likes it, and my creative side flurishes. I've had many hobbies in the past-but writing, it's not a hobby, it's become my way of life.

  4. This was beautiful, Katie. It's really important to ask yourself that question. What I've found is that the answer is never the same. It changes for me constantly, and that is totally okay. Writing is work, but anything worth doing is work.

  5. I never knew you donated a kidney. That's so awesome! I write because I can't not write....that's the best way I can explain it. I've been writing since I was eight, so it's difficult to remember a time when it wasn't part of my life.

    It was good to see you this weekend! Also, would you be willing to repost that WIFYR video? Apparently not that many people have signed up this year and they're trying to get the word out.