Bright sunshine has flooded the landscape with light and shifting shadows as the wind whips branches into restless frenzy. A thin tendril of steam is rising from my cup of coffee and I gaze at it momentarily, captivated by the patterns it makes. I am staring at the computer screen, at the paragraphs running into each other, making no sense as I search for inspiration. No, that’s not quite right. I am driven by inspiration to pour out the words clamoring to get out, my characters screaming at me to write down what they have to say. I just don’t hear them, my mind wandering as I look out the window at the shadows, the light and the patterns they make. There is an avalanche of ideas waiting to be unleashed, but I have stumbled into a pothole and I am too weary to drag myself out. I take a sip of coffee, taking in the aroma and the satisfying taste, and sigh as I stare at the words across the screen…
It’s strange, but I always wanted to write. Ever since as a kid when I stumbled across an illustrated book of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I was hooked. A whole new universe was opened for me, one I never knew existed, one far beyond the narrow confines of my childhood pursuits and shallow games. When I discovered a library not far from the primary school, I gladly plunged into that universe. Of course, reading led me to think that I could also create a universe of my own, something others could share and hopefully enjoy. It didn’t look all that hard. After all, it was simply putting down words on paper. Although the drive to write never left me, it was some years later that I could unleash that part of me and allow my imagination full flight. But like Pandora, I unleashed a part of me that ever since has given me moments of intense pleasure, soul-wrenching frustration and disappointment.
Part of the frustration was mastering the mechanical craft of writing, learning how to write good dialogue, not allowing myself to get swept up in flowery prose, how to plot, research…a raft of skills a writer needs in order to produce something good. And I am still learning. But why put myself through all that pain, accumulating a stack of rejection slips along the way, harboring murdering thoughts at authors whose crappy books are on the stands while stuff I produced cannot make it? Why put up with lonely hours cooped up in my study, bent over my notebook or pounding away at the keyboard, enduring cramped muscles, mental blocks, endless hours of tedious editing, simply to turn out that novel? Why do I write?
The answer is simple as it is complex. I am driven to write. It is a fire that burns within me and one I cannot quench. I tried to once or twice, but that urge to write, to create, never let go, could not be extinguished. It’s a curse and it is also a gift. Once I recognized that I could not change what I was, I accepted my fate and allowed myself to soar. All the frustration and tedious work, the attention to detail and the rewriting, it fades into insignificance when I look at the rewards of my creativity. When the words flow and I can hardly keep up with them, when my characters live and laugh and cry with me, and come alive on paper, when it all clicks and my spirit cries like an eagle high in the sky, the buzz of pure creation can be giddying and addictive. And it is addictive, far better than any smoky weed or pill.
I write primarily because I must and because I want to share with others the joy of my creations. Once that book is done, the moment of accomplishment passes, but there is always a sense of power, knowing I have left something behind that is lasting. The doubts about getting published, having the thing sell, marketing, all those things will weigh on me later. But even if one person reads what I have produced, I am satisfied, although I am egotistical enough to want as many readers as possible. Then there is a period when I must recharge and get ready for another book, more frustration, more loneliness, more tedium. Sometimes I really wonder why I put myself through all this.
I’m driven and I’m cursed and I must write. The passion and the drive that keeps pushing me is relentless and won’t give me peace. But I have ceased fighting the current and have accepted my destiny, because there is nothing more fulfilling in life.
I take another sip of coffee, now gone cool, flex my fingers and smile at the keyboard. I have come for you, I tell my characters…