Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing Makes Me Happy

The subject of my post may sound like something from a cheesy pop song, but it is very serious because there are times when, as an author, it is tempting to throw your hands in the air and say: "Why bother?".

After all, writing can be a thankless task. We spend vast tracts of time plotting, planning, outlining, drafting, and editing. At the end of all of this, you have a product that may or may not pass muster with the ultimate judge of the quality of your work: the readers.

I've been writing for a while now and have wanted to give up more times than I can remember. In the past, it normally happened after my nth rejection slip. I would add it to the pile and declare: "I give up. This is a waste of time." A few weeks later, I'd be back at the keyboard.

The thing with writing is: anyone can do it. The old saying about chimpanzees and Shakespeare has a germ of truth to it. A chimp banging away at a keyboard is, to some extent, writing. It may not be prose, but he is applying keyboard characters to a screen which, according to Merriam-Webster is one of the definition of the verb "write": "to form (as characters or symbols) on a surface with an instrument (as a pen)". Writing is considered an art and, just as modern art has shown that an unmade bed or pile of rubbish is considered by some people to be a valid contribution to artistic expression. I can't help wondering if a day will come when someone will produce and sell a book written by chimpanzees. I'm sure someone would buy it to place alongside their "scattered rubbish" and "unmade bed" pieces.

But this is part of the joy of writing. Just the other day I passed a gentleman standing in a field by the side of the road. He had his bicycle parked and his easel erected. Wearing a floppy hat to shade his eyes from the sun, he bent forward, squinting, paint brush in hand, and dabbed at his interpretation of the landscape before him. Even from a fair distance, I could see that his representation was nothing to write home about. It was no unmade bed, but neither was it a Rembrandt. That did not matter because, even from twenty yards away, I could see that he was happy.

Every time I give up writing, I am forced to reexamine my motivations. I originally started out because I wanted to do something for God. The word "calling" is probably too strong here (and loaded with all sorts of spiritual baggage) so I think it is better to say that God allowed me to pursue my interest in writing. Maybe that still counts as a calling, I don't know, but I get to do something I want to do and I have permission to do it.

This morning while preparing for work I chatted with my wife about the day ahead. I'm between edits at the moment so have a couple of weeks to spare. I discussed my latest project as well as some ideas for marketing for my next book (due for release some day soon). My wife commented that I am always much happier when I'm busy with my writing.

I never really looked at it that way before, but she is right. I find it hard work and have to push myself sometimes, but it engages my mind and gives me something to work towards. A passing reader may scoff and say I'm no artist. Indeed, some may compare my efforts to an unmade bed. But there is something about building a world that never existed until you imagined into being--of breathing life into characters who will one day become actors in a drama of your making--that is extremely rewarding. It may be hard work, and not everyone will appreciate it, but it is yours and nobody can take that away from you.     

In short: writing makes me happy.


  1. It's make-believe for grownups and I love it!

  2. I like the way you define "calling"! It doesn't have to be some huge spiritual experience. Just knowing that God wants us doing something we also enjoy is enough.

  3. I love the image of that man painting in the field, Paul--I will take it with me into my writing day! Even the way you described it shows me how much you enjoy what you yourself do. And I too love the way you described your 'calling' to write and agree totally with your comments. Since God gave us our gifts, talents, personality etc, then surely it must delight God's heart to see us doing the very thing we were created to do?