Krissie: This is Why I Write

Photo on 8-14-13 at 9.06 AM So Crusie sent Lani and me an email yesterday which set off a whole bunch of thinking. If I could choose what I’d do for the rest of my life (or even for a couple of years) and have no repercussions, financially or in terms of future career options, what would I do? I’m having a little trouble getting started on the new book, I’m feeling like I’m juggling too many things, and I’m basically not accomplishing anything and feeling guilty about it. So if I didn’t have to feel guilty, what would I choose to do? Would I turn my back on writing, just for a year, or a few months, or the rest of my life? I’ve been writing my entire life, professionally since 1971, and god knows I’m so disgusted with publishing and editors I once trusted that I’d be justified in blowing everything off.
But … I suddenly remembered why I began writing professionally (and really, why I wrote fan fiction in my teen years before fan fiction was invented).
Recently (as in the last few years) I was thinking it was because there were stories I wanted to tell. That I had these stories inside me that I needed to write down, and money and success had nothing to do with it. The stories just kept coming and I needed to write them down.
Well, that’s part of it.
But I suddenly remembered why I made the decision to write my first book that I wanted published. It’s because other writers weren’t keeping up with my need for story. There weren’t enough writers writing the books I wanted to read. If I wanted to read the story that spoke to my fantasies then I had to write it.
Which is why I made my first mistake, and wrote a first-person Gothic in the early 1970s. There weren’t enough being published, so I had to fill the gap. But the reason there weren’t enough being published is that the market in them had crashed (too many weak books, too fast) and editors weren’t buying them.
I still managed to sell my first five books before the market tanked completely, but by then I’d moved on to Regencies because Georgette Heyer was dead and I needed more regencies (that heyday lasted a second and a half) and I’ve been able to write what I love since then. What I loved most seldom happened to be the flavor of the month, though there were occasional times when they coincided, but at least I wrote and sold.
If I stopped writing now I don’t think there’d be enough books to transport me. I’m fairly picky — there are a great many massively beloved writers who leave me cold. Now maybe if Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Sherry Thomas, Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer, Eloisa James, Linda Howard, et al were all writing enough to keep me happy (and all of them are of course not equal in my esteem, but I devour all of them) then maybe that would be enough.
But I don’t think that would be true either. Because when I read a really good book it fills me with a kind of restless, creative energy that I need to expend. A great story just makes me want to tell my own great story, with the hero doing and saying exactly what i want him to do or say. With the sex and redemption and despair and love and all that good stuff going on.
My mother wrote until her mid-nineties, and she wasn’t even a story-teller. Her stuff was more character-driven, and she loved playing with words. And yet she kept working.
I need stories, my own and others, to survive. So when I’m sitting there in my recliner (or whatever they’ll have in 30 or so years) I’ll be making up stories because I have to. Without them something inside of me dries up and twists and dies.
So I guess there’s no way I’ll ever be free from the compulsion to write. And because writing is communication (I passed the fan fiction around to my friends in high school) I suppose I’m always going to want to see things published. Basically there’s no way off this fucking merry-go-round.
Which is all right. I just to work on my Zen a bit. Life is a journey, not a destination. Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can. Enjoy the ride.
Stop bitching (or silently mourning) the things I cannot have, or haven’t had. Grab what I’ve got, the amazing gift I was given. Okay, it’s not Mary Stewart, but hey, it’s Anne Stuart and there’s only one of her, and er … she’s really my favorite writer because she speaks to me directly.
And I can have as many Anne Stuart novels as I want. Laura Kinsale and Sharon and Tom Curtis and Judith Ivory may have stopped writing, and I can’t be Kathy Bates in Misery and go after them with a sledgehammer. But I can make Anne Stuart write, and do it with joy.
Which is exactly what I’m going to do. ┬áStarting today.

21 thoughts on “Krissie: This is Why I Write

  1. Kieran says:

    Yay!!! It’s funny you posted this today because I wrote a post about making a Crazy Wish List at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard. It’s an outrageous list of things you want to do, but it’s different from a bucket list. There could be things on it that you know you will never be able to do (for me, that would be flying like a superhero). I do think there is value in writing such a list. *We’re so afraid to admit what we want to do.* So I’m really glad for you that you’ve reflected on this and decided that you’re a writer who wants to keep writing!!!

  2. Maine Betty says:

    This reminds me of something that Barbara Mertz wrote about one of her Amelia Peabody books, “The Last Camel Died at Noon,” (I think it was noon). She said no one was writing the H. Ryder Haggard “finding a lost and ancient civilization” book anymore, so she had to write one for herself.

    It’s good for an artist to re-confirm why they do what they do. Especially for writers, I would think, because writing is sitting still for a long time, being alone, and working really hard. Singing, for instance, is standing up, working hard, and having a ball, and feeling great afterwards.

    I doubt you are doing nothing, but I think for artists, if we’re not working on our art, whatever it may be, we do feel like we’re not accomplishing anything, because we’re not doing THE thing we’re supposed to do. Which explains a lot of my frustration this summer. Thanks!

  3. I asked myself this question recently and the answer was that I would travel. However, I know that when I travel that stimulates more story ideas, so then I’d want to write. So I’d be back at square one. Figured I might as well just write from memory and save my $$$. ­čÖé

  4. Great way of putting it. Makes me think that I’d really like to read a Jane Birdsell novel, where everything goes exactly the way that most delights me. Better get started before too much longer.

  5. I hear you. I need to write, to draw, to create and to make things with my hands. And I’ve given up virtually all of them over the years as depression and anxiety and hellish jobs or hellish work schedules took their toll. And I didn’t pick them up again. No wonder getting mentally healthy again is so difficult and taking so long! I mean, as a child, I wrote and drew and made things Every Single Day and I was happy being solitary. I was doing what I loved and it filled me up.

    I’ve been out of gas for a long while now. I loved writing that first draft of my first novel last year, but since then it’s just sat there, with only the regular thoughts about it thrown its way. I agreed with my therapist that I need to create, and that I would create time every evening to do so, but I haven’t started it yet. I created a schedule in Excel this weekend. Time to print it out and have it on hand to remind me that it’s time to create now! (Or time to work, take a walk, or whatever).

    I’m glad you figured out why you write, Krissie. I think it will make dealing with all the bullshit easier, because you are writing and sharing for YOU, to meet YOUR needs. That’s what counts.

  6. Hmm, maybe the first step is to make something again? A card to yourself, a dream board, or take up knitting which you can do in front of the t.v. at night. Scarves don’t necessarily take thought but your hands would be busy again. I wonder if that might help.

    Here’s to you filling up again to over flowing.

  7. Lois says:

    Skye, thanks for the reminder. I finally said something to my doctor about my depression and she gave me the name of a conselor and I keep forgetting to call. I read your post and called!

  8. I’ve tried to quit writing and it never works. I go for a while and then something eats my brain and it’s back to the voices in my head.

    I have a hard time even imagining what I would want “if I could do anything without the guilt.” That’s really sad.

  9. Every so often I ask myself if I’m done. I’ve been involved in a lot of different things and eventually gave them all up. A LOT of things. Things I enjoyed and did well and one day just stopped.

    I’m not sure if that will happen with the writing one day. It’s been in the background of my life since I made my mom teach me how to write before kindergarten. (I figured you had to be able to write to go to school.)

    A lot of it has been poetry. I wrote a poem to a horse when I was ten. Some short stories and a few novels. Some of which people have read!

    But if I could do whatever I wanted, money was no object? I think I’d go to Ireland and rent a cottage there for a while. Bring my kids and invite my friends but also have a bunch of alone time.

    Then maybe I’d go to the south of France for a while. Float down the canals in France and England in a narrow boat. Eat or not eat. Sleep or not sleep. I guess I’m worn out taking care of things (people). I want some space to relearn my own rhythms.

  10. This post inspired so many thoughts and questions, but unfortunately I don’t have time to get them all down just now so I’ll attempt some brevity in relation to the “what would I do…” question.

    One of my favorite little B movie comedies is How I Got Into College. One of the characters (a high school student) describes his career goal as driving around the country giving away unclaimed game show prizes.

    I generally think of my actual career ambition as being pretty much as practical as that. Except instead of giving away unclaimed prizes, I would be a perpetual student, or start a charity, or travel and write about it a la Bill Bryson, or work on developing some of the offbeat business or invention ideas that come to me from time to time. Though I did hear earlier this summer about a job that involved being paid to go from amusement park to amusement park, I’ve yet to hear of a job where someone will give me a salary, health care benefits, and a decent retirement package (or in lieu of that, an enormous wad of cash that equals all of the above) for doing whatever the hell I feel like doing that day/week/month/quarter/year.

    Whenever I see career counselor types telling people they should find a way do get paid for doing what they love, they don’t seem to cover my particular niche.

    So, sadly, I guess that means I’ll have to stick with what I’m doing and wait for the universe to send me my version of Bob Barker in a convertable with appliances in the backseat.

  11. MJ: I love that idea! It would be a great way to get me drawing again without the pressure of it having to be “great” work. And it would be fun!

  12. Oh Lois, I’m so glad you remembered and called a counselor! It has been so useful to me. I have one friend who doesn’t struggle with mental issues all the time but who goes in every few years for what she calls a “tune-up.” I hope the counselor works out for you!

  13. Maria, those are great ideas! I crochet and need to start doing that again. I don’t knit yet, but a good friend of mine does and she’s willing to teach me. I think I’ll talk to her about it; it would give me more time with her, too, which I’d really like.


  14. What would I do if I didn’t have to worry about another single soul and money was a non-issue? Funny, but I’m afraid to let myself wonder this–am I afraid of what I’d learn about me if I gave this concept any serious thought? I don’t know, but I do know that writing will always be in my present and future, just as it has been in my past. I can’t imagine life without writing and releasing the people in my head. But, I place deadlines and goals on myself and get discouraged when I can’t achieve them…maybe I would try writing without worrying about what will become of the finished product?

    Confession? I’m tired of editing…I think I could use a couple of years where I didn’t have to do that, but that time is in the future…

  15. Micki says:

    You know, I like writing very much. I love the rush I get when everything is going right, and I love seeing it in print. (Which is why commenting on blogs is so addictive — a little writing, and boom, I’m published. And sometimes people talk back to me! I love that!)

    But it’s even easier if I read a good book, and since I’ve met a lot of good readers in the last 15 years, I know there are more great books out there than I will ever read.

    I get some bonus hits of happy when I’m writing long form, but the big pay off (publishing, then communicating) seems so far off in the future — too much delayed gratification?

    Still, I’m stubborn, and I want to say I finished one book to my satisfaction in my life. So, I’ll probably hang in there with my WIP for awhile.

    Maybe it would help if I did more “doodles”, though. IDK.

    Very thought-provoking post today. I love hearing your story.

  16. Lol, I was a pretty good career counsellor and I never pulled the follow your bliss routine. I’d help people undercover interests, aptitudes and personality profiles and work on best profession for them. Then we’d do the “do you want to commit to following your bliss?” talk. Because sometimes, it’s about the other needs that take precedence and bliss must me relegated to a hobby until such time that it works out that it becomes the focus of work.

    I left my favourite job – vocational/counselling – they pay blew dead bears. I had a life to build. Still haven’t built it up the horrible job is gone and I’m following the thing I’ve been doing forever. I’m a born teacher. I could do without all the admin crap and politics. So I guess I’ll be leaving that too, soon enough. But so far, so good. Half passion is good enough while I explore going back into vocational counselling.

  17. Debby says:

    I just read a quote attributed to Paulo Coelho – on Facebook (of course). “I write to empty my mind and to fill my heart.”
    It made me think of you, Krissie, and this post.

Comments are closed.