A few days ago I finished writing the last Lost Tale of Mercia. Shortly afterwards, I began writing Sons of Mercia Vol. 3, “Edric the Wild.” If I finish it, it will be my tenth completed novel, and if I write it as quickly as the first two novels, I will finish it in approximately three months. People often ask me how I write so much. I figure that now is as good a time as ever to begin exploring the answer.
The most pointed response I can give is this: I write so much because I like to. In fact, I love to. The truth is, writing is as necessary to my soul as breathing is to my body. It matters little how busy I am or how many obligations I have elsewhere: I find the time to write. So before I even begin to address the “how,” I think it is essential to first consider the “why.”
For me, the motivation to write comes from a combination of factors: 1) inspiration of various sorts and 2) an inability to express that inspiration in other normal, social outlets. Think about it. Why are so many artists socially eccentric? I’m not sure whether the chicken comes before the egg in this case, and I don’t mean to say that if you’re an artist you must be a hermit, but I do think that if I could ingratiate myself into society as easily as most people, I would not feel such an urgent need to express myself elsewhere.
Partially, I think artists express themselves for their own fulfillment, but I also think their work is their way of giving to society. Once upon a time I felt guilty for not being a more charitable person to my community by nature. I did not like to participate in a lot of events and volunteer activities like everyone else. In my day-jobs, I find that I am not as satisfied helping clients/customers with the grueling tasks of daily life so much as my coworkers. But I have come to realize that this is because I want to help people in a different way. I want to give them perspective. I want to spark their thoughts and stir their emotions. I want to entertain them. This is my way of giving back, and nothing is so satisfying as knowing I’ve successfully reached someone through my craft.
So let’s get back to the very important factor of inspiration. Some people treat the origin of inspiration as some sort of paradox with no explanation. But to me, it is quite simple. I am inspired to express myself creatively when I see something differently than most of the people around me–which is quite often. Take Eadric Streona as a prime example. Look him up in an almost any history book and you will find him described as the scum of the earth. But when I read through the events of his life, I interpreted him differently. I thought that he might have had good intentions for some of the decisions he made. And even if he did not, how typical were his decisions of any desperate human being? How many of us might have acted similarly in such horrible circumstances? And thus I was inspired to tell his story.
I also gather inspiration from other stories in other mediums. Some artists may find fault in this sort of inspiration, the way Quentin Tarantino is criticized for making movies about other movies. But this form of derivative entertainment is simply a characteristic of my generation that is best embraced. We are stimulated constantly by books, movies, music, and video games. I feed on such things like my daily bread. Visuals, sounds, and stories from these sources collide in my head and I’m inclined to turn them into something new. So it is a part of my writing process whether I like it or not.
Daily life is an important stimulus for inspiration too, of course, but its effect is usually less obvious and more profound at the same time. The emotions and thoughts sparked within me from daily life are more complex and not as easily deciphered. Writing is a way for me to translate the nonsense of my life into a more legible form. But it’s not until after I write something that I realize, “Oh, I wrote that because of what happened between me and my coworker,” or “Oh, this character made that decision because that’s what I wished I would have done in such-and-such a situation.” These are the emotions that come out of my writing by necessity, and because there are often less practical ways to express them.
I realize that many writers approach this last bit quite differently. They want to write their life story, or write about someone they know, or write a self-help book. Yeah I don’t get that. It’s just not how I function.
So I write a great deal because I am driven to. I hope that other beginning writers can recognize that need and feed it, because it is a healthy one. But of course there is more to it than sheer desire, even though that is a key factor. As with any craft, writing regularly also requires a mixture of discipline, motivation, and skill that accumulates largely from sheer practice and habit.
For more about that, read my next post: My Writing Process – the How
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