Why I Write (or, I May Have a Footnote Problem)

This entry is in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash not-fiction challenge.  Because my brain did not want to novel today.

Well, right now I’m writing this to avoid typing up what I wrote this week, because I’m pretty sure I don’t know how to fix it yet.  I could be wrong about that; if I actually sat down and started the gears might start to turn and things might start to move in my brain: woo-hoo, genius at work!  Or not, and it would be all hacking at bedrock with a fork.  Which is what this week has been, writing-wise.  This week was, in fact, a week where I might be within my rights to ask the Universe why the hell I do this.  And so.

Okay, so here’s a story: I had a year–1995-1996 or so, the year between graduating college and getting into and starting grad school–that, for a very long time, I mentally dismissed as a year I didn’t write.  I finished one story, and it was really bad.  Then somewhere in around 2005, same thing, except I didn’t have the bad finished story.  Both of those years have things in common:  depression, anxiety, jobs I wasn’t happy in, the feeling that my life had gone off in a direction I Did Not Want and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back; setbacks and scariness and all around dark periods.

2006/2007 also included my pregnancy, during which I actually considered just … not being a writer anymore.  Because in my pregnancy-hormone-addled brain, that made perfect sense.[1]  But those Lost Years (if you will) always came to an end, and I’d write again.  But hold on, that’s not the point …

So you have a baby, and you go back to work, and one day you look around and think that maybe you should seriously clean your office, right?  Because there are a lot of old lesson plans and story drafts and just a lot of paper piling up, and you’d like to not lose your now-toddling child under the inevitable avalanche.  Maybe you should buy a filing cabinet like an actual, paper-hoarding adult.

Of course, that means you actually have to file things.

I remember sitting in the middle of my office floor, child entertained by his grandmother and great-grandmother in the living room,[2] and in my lap, my hands, scattered around me on the floor were things that, if my grasp of my own history was correct, shouldn’t have existed: a long, long re-telling of Cinderella from 1995; an attempt to re-write a story I’d done as a freshman in college, dated 2005.  About 80 pages of a young adult novel, three first drafts of some inter-related short stories, another 20-30 pages of a fantasy novel,[3] some poetry–all of it from those years when I honestly thought I hadn’t been writing.  None of it was finished, mind you, but all of it was written.  By me.[4]

So I think the reason I write is because, apparently, I’m not particularly good at not writing.

As for, like, philosophical reasons–I used to write because I wanted to be a voice of a generation,[5] or because Art, or to make people’s lives better, or to prove myself to people …

I can pinpoint the moment when I started writing with one ear toward what someone else thought I (actually our entire workshop) should write.  This mostly came out in huge amounts of defensiveness–I was writing X, but it was literary X!  I would change the face of X genre forever![6]

I can also pinpoint the moment when I decided to just fuck off and write the things that were fun. [7] (Fun that tries to kill me, occasionally, but fun.)  The fun things make my brain feel good.  The fun things have worlds I like to spend time in. The fun things tend to involve my thinking, I wonder if I could pull that off? and then, you know, seeing if I can. And the fun things have been, for the most part, better-written.

I knew something was up when Jason told me how much he liked this new, weird turn I’d taken.  I really knew I was onto something when the husband started asking me if he could read my drafts. [8]  And while I’m not wildly successful,[9] I started selling things when I started writing the fun stuff.[10]

So I think, then, that I write what I write because I like it, and it’s fun.[11] And, really, if I’m going to do it anyway–since apparently I can’t not–and if I can’t control the vagaries of publishing, I may as well entertain myself.[12]


1 [back]Fast-forward to 2007, when the flip side of that happened and I thought that three months into parenting was the perfect time to start a novel.

2 [back]Yeah, they said they were going to help me sort papers. Right.

3 [back]The concept of which I still really think is cool, might I just say.

4 [back]This is why I started dating whatever I wrote in my notebooks, and why I track word counts mark the days that I write in a calendar–because I need to remember that I am, actually, writing, and writing consistently.

5 [back]I’ve mentioned my college-era pretension before, yes?

6 [back]I have lost a lot of writing time over the years to a variety of things; trying to simultaneously write what I wanted to while making it “respectable” was exhausting, as was the defensiveness, and I really wish I could get that time back.

7 [back]See footnote 1, interestingly.

8 [back]Until then he was very, “It’s good, but it’s not my thing.”

9 [back]Yet, says the Scott-voice

10 [back]I also realize that there’s a certain irony in the people around me really liking my work, and that telling me something, once I decided not to write based on what people might like.

11 [back]Even the angst.  I revel in the angst.  And also the parts where the story tries to kill me.  Like this week!  Goddammit.

12 [back]And Jason and Scott.

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4 thoughts on “Why I Write (or, I May Have a Footnote Problem)

  1. Ok, I had a draft I was working on for the same contest that used endnotes the same way you did! I can’t submit that now!

    He shakes his fists in anger at you, starkly contrasting the laughter spewing from his mouth.

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