The fact is that the answer is not so neat. Yes, I love to write, but what compels me to tell the stories I tell? Why do I spend years of my life entwined in the lives of these characters, their heartbreak and their laughter, their struggles and their triumphs?
Every story I have published, I have been asked: why did you write this story?
But never have I been asked: How do you choose into which story to pour your heart?
Oftentimes there seems to be so many potential stories in my head that I could sift them like shimmering diamonds through my fingers. But somewhere in there is a story that gleams the brightest, a story that I feel that I have to tell, no matter what.
Writing a book is not easy undertaking. Maybe it would be easier if I were a poet or a songwriter. This isn’t to say that these undertakings are easy: in fact I have found myself sadly lacking at a talent to do either. It seems appealing, though, to choose a subject, lovingly fashion the words together in a heartbeat of emotion, and then move on to the next one. It would not be easy, but the time commitment—of both time, and of soul—would be less cumbersome.
And yet I write books.
I’ve begun to see that I do not choose the story; the story chooses me. I wake up some mornings with words I want to say, sometimes so loud in my head that I feel like they are shouting. It makes me feel like I need to shout them. And that’s what gets me out of bed and onto my computer. I’m driven by the same primal urge that drove cavemen to paint on walls, a need to communicate something that seems so important to me that I am willing to spend years of my life to say them. I don’t have answers, I have questions, questions that I want to explore.
In a sense, my writing is therapy. Not so much that I’m working things out in my own past, but in that I am trying to understand the world around me. Because sometimes it makes no damn sense, but I have to believe that there is a reason in there somewhere, that other people have the same questions I do, and somehow together we can work it out. I don’t feel that I have some great wisdom to impart; my writing is more of a collaborative effort between me and the reader, us holding hands and leaping into places that, alone, we would be afraid to go.
The stories I tell are not just oxygen to me, but the beating of my heart. My writing is a joyful, sometimes anguished, shout at the world.
I write because I have something to say.