The picture above is a real picture of a real fortune I received in a fortune cookie a few days ago. As with most fortune cookie messages, I just kind of tossed it aside with the other papers on my little table by the couch and didn’t think about it. Except, I’ve been thinking about it for days now.
“You…should write a book.”
I’ve been told that I should write a book for years. Many times over the years, in fact. And while I’ve written stories, novels, plays, poems, songs and any number of other things, I’ve not yet produced “a book”. For a while it looked like I was spiraling in on doing just that. I had several stories published, I was writing regularly (completing stories almost weekly)…I was in the zone as it were.
But then it stopped.
Interestingly, as I’ve thought about my “charming way with words” over the past few days, I’ve realized that nearly just as often as I’ve been told I should write a book, I’ve been asked that inevitable question asked of aspiring authors:
Why do you write?
In the past, I always had an answer for this question. It was simple, really:
I write because I can’t NOT write.
To a large extent, this answer was one of those infallible Truths of my being. I simply had to write or else I was not me. It was unhealthy to not write. It was the only way I could clear my head before going to sleep at night and the only way I could get myself going in the mornings. It was simply what I did when I was not doing anything else and it was what I chose to do whenever I had options.
But now, as I sit here and look at my woeful creative output in recent months, I realize that my answer for “why I write” is no longer so easy. In fact, it is now very easy for me to NOT write. The hectic life of being self-employed — with two busy and active teenagers who still allow me to be part of their lives — means that the decision matrix of what priorities bubble to the top is more complex than it has ever been and unfortunately for my creative side, the time involved with sitting down to put pen to paper causes writing to slide down the priorities scale. I still do write. It’s a paragraph here or there, it’s notes on a random napkin or junk mail envelope, it’s stories I recite to myself while I’m mowing the lawn. The passion for writing isn’t gone, it’s simply sitting there burning quietly like a pilot light in a furnace, waiting for the call to burn brightly.
But this still leaves me with thoughts of whether or not I need for a new answer to the question of “why do I write?”. I mean, wouldn’t it just be easier to hang up the notebooks and pens and just be a dad or a worker bee or a homeowner with a ton of yard work to do, and not have the added burden of “being a writer“? Sure, maybe it would be easier. One less thing on the never-ending, never-empty, always-expanding to-do list each day. But as I’ve thought about it these past few days since a wise slip of paper informed me that I have a charming way with words and should write a book, I realize once again that I have a story to tell — many stories to tell, in fact– and the only way these stories will be told is if *I* write them. So even though today I may be putting most of my writing on scraps of paper or on the backs of envelopes, even though most of those slips of paper are being stuffed into a “for the future” folder and left on the corner of a desk in the basement, I’m still writing. And the reason is still the same as it was when I wrote my first stories at 6 years old: I write because I really can’t NOT write.
How about you? What is your answer to this question and how is that answer being manifested differently (or the same) now as compared to whenever you started writing? Discuss in the comments here or over on the forums.