I've been thinking, all morning, about what keeps me going. Why do I keep coming back to my computer to write stories? Why do I keep coming up with ideas and then putting them down in print? Why do I write books? Why do I write this blog?
I believe it was J.A Konrath who said "If you can quit, quit."
Writing and telling a story is easy. Doing it well is another matter. Being a professional author entails even more challenge. If I could have quit, I probably would have long ago. But I didn't. Because I can't.
I was eight years old when I wrote what I call my first short story and decided that I wanted to keep doing it forever. That was the moment I decided I wanted to be an author. Nearly twenty years later, I'm still working on it, still improving, still writing, still telling stories. I have always had a passion for story but, perhaps also, I've had an obsession. Writing is like an addiction. If I don't do it, I have withdrawals.
But eventually you always come down from a high. Writing can be like pulling teeth and sometimes a whole lot of hard work just makes crap. Sometimes hard work makes good art but nobody cares and you feel like you've just been shouting into the void.
Dreams come and go. Addictions can be broken. Sometimes writing isn't fun and yet I keep writing even when I can't really tell you why. Eight year old me decided to do a lot of dumb stuff I abandoned, like recruiting homeless people into an armed militia to fight crime.
I've made it no secret that I became an author to entertain others. My success is measured in the joy I bring to people's lives through fiction. I write pulpy genre fiction because, in my experience, it is the kind of fiction that is the most fun and I want everybody who comes into contact with my writing to have fun, myself included.
But doing something for other people is a path fraught with peril. You can't please everybody. Seeking validation from other people is a dangerous way to build your self-worth because it's unreliable. Sometimes people aren't going to like you or the things you do and if you're depending on their approval to keep you going, it can be crushing.
But even if, like me, you care very little about people who don't like your work and love the people who do like your work, if all I ever wanted to accomplish was bring a few smiles into the world then I could stand on the street and give away my work for free. I could put all my books and short stories here on my blog and say "Go nuts! Read what you want! Tell me if you like it!" Or, hell, I could just share them with friends and family. I don't feel a need to make the whole world happy with my writing, just the people I can.
Everybody has dreams and aspirations and they change. If all I wanted was to make people happy, I could probably find more efficient means than writing books for professional publication and selling them through book stores.
But it has been twenty years and I haven't given up. I just keep on going and, after consideration, I think the reason is very simple.
Because the world keeps telling me I can't.
I have long harboured resentment towards authority. I resist control and limitation and expectation wherever possible.
Every day I wake up and the culture I'm in says "Play it safe. Get a real job. Buy a house. Have children. Play the game. Drink the kool-aid. Abandon your dreams."
Every day I wake up and the voice of doubt and anxiety and fear in my mind says "Nobody wants to read your book. If you were going to succeed, you'd have done it by now. It's never going to change. One day you'll be old and regret that you gambled your whole life on a few books nobody wanted."
Every day I wake up and I sit down and I write. I write because I've come this far and I'm not backing down now. I write because I've got a chip on my shoulder, a fire in my belly and every word of every story that somebody reads is another way I take tell the universe to piss off and claim control of my life.
That's why, when everything else is not enough, I still write. Passion smoulders and flares over time, motivations are weak and malleable but I am forever a fool driven by grim determination to live my life my way.
A new self-awareness does not magically make me a better writer. But it does make life a little clearer. My own thoughts are no longer a mystery hidden deep in my subconscious. Now when I sit down to write and I wonder why in the world I'm still going, I can answer that question.
Then I can get on with the task at hand.
Self-reflection is something I will always encourage. Right now, I encourage you to reflect on why you write. Discover what it as, at the deepest level, that keeps you hitting the keys, making the words and telling the stories when the act seems to defy all reason.
Then pat yourself on the back for achieving a deeper understanding of yourself.
And then get back to work, slacker.