“Why do you write?”
I set the Publix sub down. The confused look on my face must have been more expressive than I thought.
My coworker repeated the question. Slower.
After a few moments I felt a half smile growing.
“I don’t know.”
Some might be appalled at my answer. How can I call myself a writer or aspiring to be published when I can’t even explain why. Why do I spend hours editing. Spend days writing and weeks of everything but headbutting the computer to fix writer’s block?
A philosophical man or a plain sappy one might retort. “Why do fish swim or birds fly? To not do would be a slow agonizing death.”
That is not me at all. I can go without writing stories and books because I spent years terrified of it.
Years ago I got the writing bug. Terribly.
In my sophomore year I had a class assignment where we had to do research on a foreign country in an assigned continent and do a short story of a character moving to there. I was assigned Africa and chose Zimbabwe. Because I loved the name and it just spoke to me. Long story short I did one of a kid who moved there. Made friends with a native who dressed up in tribal gear to get tourists to visit and even had him be attacked by a black mamba. A snake so venomous it can kill elephants with a bite.
While short and admitingly full of puns and references to 80’s songs I found something. Something inside me stirred. Then I wrote. I won’t go into detail but I poured myself into three or four manuscript attempts each one numbering into fifty thousand words. Then. Something shattered me. I don’t rememeber how, why or when but my confidence plummeted. I became scared. Wouldn’t share my work with anyone and become more and more self conscious about being bad at writing and describing the scenery. I slowly starved myself. I bullied myself into killing my favorite hobby. The scars were so deep and swollen it took two years to even consider writing again. And not even write-write. Basically I came up with an idea for a book. But still hated my writing prowness so I spent the next few months searching for an artist.
I was going to make myself a graphic novel.
Man was I proud.
The illustrations and character profiles stuffed my inbox. They became my wallpaper on my phone and the most talked about thing in my life. Even went to a comicon to raise money for it by selling my artist’s drawing of my characters. Here I was cusp of fulfilling a hunger, an urge that I buried years before hand.
Then it fell to pieces. My artist became more and more distant. Drawings became slower and scenes became MIA. We broke off the comic. The anger fueled me. I swore I would never doubt my writing again. So after ebbs and flows of confidence I finally spilt enough ink to make some semblance of a short story and published it on Amazon.
At that moment I realized. I have found a craft. Something I can perfect over my lifetime. It gave me chills, goosebumps and happiness shooting through my veins whenever someone complimented my writing or said wow. I nearly died from an overdose of those emotions when I got my first. ‘Wow, you’re good at writing.’ Here I was someone so paralyzed by my own fear, being complimented for something I was terrified of. Push came to shove and after months of effort I wrote a book.
A real book!
56 thousand words of my own design.
That was September. I have spent the last better part of a year editing and perfecting my brainchild. And while there have been good and bad times. I am proud of myself.
So a good few minutes after giving that small smile. My brain raced through my history with the written word. And I realized why I write.
I write because I’m finally proud of my writing.
And boy was it a ride to get there.