I won’t lie to you – this IS and ISN’T a new post. Last year I was very kindly asked to participate in two blog hops, each of them inviting me to elaborate a little on my writing process. I’m currently doing a little housekeeping at The Ark Hive at the moment, and in reading those posts again I found areas where some of info was outdated. The works in progress or upcoming projects are sights in the rear-view now, so I wanted to post versions with those sections edited out, but if you’re of a mind to read the original posts (and I’d point you in that direction if only to introduce you to the awesome people who very kindly nominated me, and the equally awesome people I subsequently nominated) the originals are available here and here.
So … Why I write …
I know why I started. I think the creative urge is something woven into our DNA, a seed planted in the soil of wherever dreams are born. Sometimes that seed flourishes, nourished by the sunlight and showers of the imagination, and the mind becomes a garden of vision and creativity. Sometimes, the seed grows into something more fragile, little more than a teardrop of colour in the black soil, and the imagination runs to smaller endeavours. Sometimes, heartbreakingly, the seed is ripped viciously from the dirt or trodden underfoot or withered by the unforgiving winters of the real world.
Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe I’ve been given a modest garden to tend. Yes, it’s often choked with weeds, and there’s the occasional square of disturbed earth between the flower beds where the bodies are buried, but its mine, dash it, and I think there are perhaps two elements from real life that brought it to bloom.
One of them was the thread of solitude when I was growing up. My childhood … Stuff happened. It’s not quite up there with the fate of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but suffice it to say circumstances allowed me the retrospective good fortune of being left alone to my own imaginary devices, unburdened by family influences so that I might tend to that creative seed.
The other element was comics, of course. I like DC, but at heart I’m a Marvel fanboy, and Marvel has always fostered a wonderful warm connection with its readership, breaching the barrier between creator and wide-eyed reader with its letters from the Bullpen (Excelsior!) and its fourth-wall breaking asides (Deadpool’s nods out the frame are the bastard child of these, I think) and its little boxes that namechecked the artists and writers but gave them amiable nicknames (“Marvellous” Marv Wolfman, “Live-It-Up” Len Wein, “Rascally” Roy Thomas). It’s one of the reasons that Stan “The Man” Lee is so beloved today, and why his cameos are such a fun part of the movies. Well, I call them cameos. Either that, or he’s actually playing the same character, a franchise-straddling, ageless immortal whose varied career path has encompassed Army General, a couple of stints as a Security Guard, and a postman. But I digress …
Another comic that showcased its creators in this way was the UK’s own 2000AD, the home of Judge Dredd, referring to its writers and artists as Script Droids or Art Droids, and again it was a glimpse behind the curtain that not only fed my imagination but reminded me that somebody, somewhere, was constructing these worlds. And even better, they were grown ups, and I suppose that was what decided me on the kind of grown up I wanted to be.
I know why I kept going, even when I was heavily discouraged from writing even as a hobby. I think a mantra sadly familiar to a great many aspiring writers is the one where people tell you that you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t do it, or you’ll never make a living out of it, or what will the neighbours think, or your words are no good. Yeah, like we need to hear that, when we’ve all considered these things and cast them aside, again and again? Bah! To hell with the neighbours! They can’t make me wear pants!
For me, being told that I couldn’t do it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me – I have something of a history of being unable to resist a dare (I once snorted an entire bag of Sherbet Flying Saucers!), and so I kept on writing (as we all must do, although I’d advocate avoiding the Flying Saucer thing). When I started to read Stephen King’s work, I found a friendlier, more encouraging voice, not just in the fiction, but in the many notes and intros that King includes in his books, the peeks into his creative processes. Again, it was that crack in the wall, that sense that the words on the page are one person talking to another, no matter the gulf of time and space between the writing and the reading, that reminder that You Are Not Alone.
Why do I still write? Hmm. What drives me to sit at my desk after a long day of dispiriting commutes and workplace politics and try to fill the page with words? Why have there been days when I’ve given myself headaches and heartaches, staring at a screen when I could be outside, enjoying the fleeting breath of an English summer, walking in the park and looking at real gardens instead of the one in my head? The easy (and honest) answer would be that I’m hoping against hope to make even a small living out of writing at some point, if only enough to leave that commute and the politics behind, but that might never happen, and even if that was the reason, then how do I explain the blog posts, or the stories that are written with no intention to publish, or the essays, or the journal entries? (I’ve discounted the #FPs, by the way, because I know why I do them – they’re beyond fun to write)
Certainly, the encouraging voices of fellow creators are still a factor – the writing community on Twitter is wonderful, and it’s fantastic to read the great fiction and inspirational articles of other bloggers, sharing their own sneak peeks into their creative processes.
So yes, of course, I want to make a living with this writing malarkey (and if I ever write for Marvel, I already have my nickname: “Jolly” Roger Jackson? No … no, perhaps not). But that’s not it, not really. I write because all this stuff in me … it has to get out. I wake up with another person’s thoughts in my head, a dream of a kiss or a punch in the face that I never gave or received, another person’s cares and concerns. Sometimes I have to let them take precedence over my own, because to not let the words out, to let the garden die when it’s weathered all those winters and stamping feet, to let those bodies stay buried … that’s not what we’re here for, any of us.
Why do I write? I think my answer is, ultimately, the same as every other writer’s would be.
I don’t have a choice.