I got a few responses to my previous blog, mostly concern from other authors hoping I’m alright. I guess that’s what I get for a dismal title like “We’re All Going to Die, etc.”
I guess I should have prefigured that post with a warning. Coming to the realization that many of the reasons we do what we do might not add up at the end of the day, or at the end of one’s life, isn’t for everyone. I’m just trying to explore why I write, and in doing so realizing that many of the reasons were pretty vacuous when it came right down to it.
One of my biggest realizations was that my “selfless” motivations for writing, like leaving something for my kids, was actually relatively selfish. I do think it is important to leave some writing behind for my kids, but in retrospect, I can’t imagine them spending a large portion of their lives sifting through my word-shit, trying to understand who or what I was.
There have been times where I’ve stayed at my office late to write a book while my kids are at home. How can I really convince myself I’m “writing for them” in a circumstance like that? Since then I’ve borrowed a habit from one of my co-workers. He doesn’t take his work home with him. It never occurred to me that this was a possibility. But for the past year or so I have left my work at work, and most of my creative writing time at work. It works wonderfully and has reduced my stress levels immensely.
There was a time when I could delude myself into believing writing was the most important thing in my life, because it directly contributed to every other important thing in my life. I was a good father in part because I wrote for my kids, etc. Now I realize that’s bullshit. It’s a delusion onset by selfishness, just like working your ass off for money and never seeing your kids is “working for your kids.”
Do I write less after removing this potential motivation from my roster of inspiration? Yes. I do write less now. But when I write know I do it for the right reasons. And when I’m digging through my shit loads of story ideas late at night, I keep them for the right reason, and I delete the shit I’ll never work on.
Cutting Bullshit Motivations for Writing Helps Cut Shitty Story Ideas from Your Well of Ideas
For me, motivations for writing work in the same way motivations for keeping story ideas do.
I look at an old file, open it up. Ask myself:
“Is this story original?”
Answer: not really anymore.
“Am I trying to say something important?”
Answer: others have already said it. I just didn’t know they said it because I isolated myself for years when I was younger to preserve my ego.
“Does it say something about me?”
Answer: yeah. It does! It humbles me, and reminds me of who I was. It might provide my kids or family with insight into who I was some day. I better keep this!
That’s the one I always fall back on, that last question.
But there’s plenty of work I have had published that does the same thing. There are other aspects of my life that speak to my flaws. I don’t really NEED to keep this old fucking story about a delusional kid who has hidden away in the confines of his mind to preserve the delusion that he’s a God, but then it turns out he actually IS a God in this world he’s created. Shit’s been done before. Withdrawing in an attempt to preserve ego is a part of the human condition. Most people go through it at some point or another, in some way or another. Toss it.
One of my old NBAS buddies recently wrote a blog post about minimalist living in the digital age. You can check it out by clicking
The post addresses a lot of things, but the one thing I took away from it was that there’s something very tranquil about turning on a computer and seeing only a few folders. There’s something valuable about letting go of shit, literally shit that we ascribe value to.
This concept isn’t alien to me. I have tossed so many books over the years it isn’t funny. Last year my wife and I started going through all of our possessions and donating them to charity. We did this because we lost a lot of things to mold in our basement. Most of it, we realized, wasn’t really that important to us in the long run anyway. It was just shit.
Same thing happened to me when I was in 10th grade. Our house burnt down, and while I was sad that I lost a lot of stuff, I remember walking away from it with a guitar, an amp, a microphone and an 8-track mixer/recorder. And for the next few years, I had a greater level of focus than I ever had before. I dove into recording head first instead of dabbling in different shit and being a jack of all trades. Now when I look back, I can count on one hand the things I regret losing in that fire, just sentimental shit. I lost two book shelves worth of books and probably 100 CDs. I can’t think of one that was irreplaceable. Come to think of it, I have virtually none of those books or CDs in my small collection now. They couldn’t have been that important.
Anyway, since I abandoned several of my motivations for writing, I’ve also scrapped several motivations for keeping old stories. Subsequently, I’ve scrapped a shit load of old stories and blog posts and other junk that I’ll never use. It felt great to objectively look at the old entries I wrote for a feminist encyclopedia that lost its publishing contract back when I was in grad school. I was never going to publish those anywhere else. Sure, they took hours to write, but why keep them? Trashed.
Or the articles I wrote for a Magic: The Gathering website back when I was really passionate about the game. I had close to ten and had planned on doing a monthly article for the website. Then I lost interest in the game for a year and by the time I returned the articles were essentially obsolete. Why keep this shit around? I will literally NEVER use it. The only thing it does is soak up time while I’m looking through my files trying to figure out what to work on next. Junk it.
Or the essays I wrote for my college newspaper that I never published because I got caught up in other things. They were too juvenile to publish, even on my pretentious, self-absorbed blog. Why were they still around? I remember thinking I could scrap valuable insights from them to use in stories. But it just made me stagnate, relying on things that I had already thought about. Tossed.
A lot of this material kept me looking back instead of looking forward. I was losing steam, but still caught up in a mentality that I could dig inspiration out of old stories instead of coming up with new ones. I noticed this when I started digging through old pitches to try to “create” new ones. I knew I needed to purge this shit.
I’m willing to bet there are a lot of writers who already made it past this part of their career. But I’m also willing to bet there are quite a few who haven’t.
I’m also sure there are plenty of people who don’t need this in their writing career. Maybe they still dig from their well of tales. Maybe they need their assortment of motivations so they can write every day. I know there are folks who say “who gives a shit why you write, as long as you write!” I respect that, but it isn’t for me.
I needed to abandon some of my motivations as a writer, thus my previous blog post. Though I write less now, when I do write, I know it is something that is valuable to me for all the right reasons. It has abolished self doubt. It has taught me which genres will work best for me. It has helped me delete countless files I’ll never use due to my improved focus. It has provided me with an improved sense of direction. Most important, it has allowed me to accept my place in the world, separate delusion from reality.