I’ve just finished writing my fourth novel, and now I have three already published books under my belt – two written in the last two years, and the first written over a much longer period of time – I have taken a step back and asked myself – why do I write? Or why on EARTH do I write?
And the simple answer is – good question!
There are many reasons I feel the need to put pen to paper. I mean, when I was writing my first novel – The House That Alice Built – I spent many years writing it, re-writing it, doing a course, doing workshops, sending it in to agents, getting rejected, sending it in again, getting rejected, working with a mentor, sending it in etc…until one day, I won the Choc Lit Search for a Star Competition, got a three book deal, and here we are!
It was more than the desire to be a published author. It was a need to escape into another world and create something that was entirely mine. And although i started dabbling in writing many years ago, it really only came into its own when my life had become very difficult and I needed a focus that wasn’t about the problems we were facing.
I was widowed many years ago and when my late husband was ill, i enrolled on a correspondence course to help me write articles – yes it was long before the advent of online courses!. We had two very young children, regular visits to the hospital and the constant pressure that people who have been in this situation will understand. So, for a while, this course, was something I could work on that made me feel there was a life outside of it.
I did begin to get articles published in local papers and magazines as a result of doing the course, and although i didn’t get to the fiction section of it, it gave me confidence that I actually had some skill. When I finally started to write the novel that became The House That Alice Built, I set it in Cascais near Lisbon where we had lived many years before and I escaped into it – retracing my steps in my mind, almost feeling I was there in person. I would pick up the manuscript when I could and just disappear for a while into the imaginary world I was creating. It would calm me down and make me concentrate on the present, and I would forget my responsibilities, even for half an hour.
I have been an enthusiastic (i.e. – not that good, but not really caring..) salsa dancer for a long, long, long time and many of us used to say that when we started to think about the count – 1,2,3, 5,6 7 (there is a 4 but here is not the time or place to explain….!), and the steps ,our minds forgot everything else but that moment. And it’s a wonderful feeling – the kind you get when you’re swimming, or playing sport, or knitting, or painting, or doing almost anything you love.
Writing is a bit like that for me – I love it, it sometimes overwhelms me, but just doing it is good for my mental health.
So, I think that whether you want to be published or not, if you want to write do it! I mean, I love my salsa and tap, but when I took them up It wasn’t because I wanted to do it professionally. When i sing, I do it as its’ good for my soul (if not anyone else’s). Who knows, once you put pen to paper – to write a novel, a short story, a poem, some lyrics, an essay, a diary entry – whatever it is – you may get it published. But you could also approach writing the way I approach dancing and singing – do it as if there’s no-one watching, because if you’re going to do it, do it because it makes you feel good.