Know Why You Write

Party on DarthWhen my sister and I shared a bedroom as kids, I used to tell her stories before we went to sleep. I made them up. As a teen I played D&D, not as a character but the guy that invented the stories for characters to wind their way through. On submarines in the north Atlantic, I sat before the missile launcher console and told stories like all sailors do to pass the time. I was always going to tell stories.

And when I finished my naval career and worked in a hotel, I realized how long I’d gone accepting my identity as that man in uniform. I pictured my job, my career, as who I was. One look at my new surroundings and I said, “I must be more than what pays the bills. But what?”

At forty-three I realized, I don’t know who I am anymore. Throughout that night, between auditing the day’s books and fixing the complimentary breakfast for the coming morn, I struggled to connect the dots. At one point I asked myself, “How can I turn being a solitary daydreamer to a good purpose?”

“I’ll write.”

My laptop came with me to work. Rather than watch infomercials or reruns on the lobby TV, I wrote. The story I began with had been a plot for a game I’d intended to run. A recent conversation with an old friend left me with that as my first manuscript.

Granted, I hoped to earn a living as a writer, to return to the Appalachians and write near my kin. And that dream hasn’t died. One of the books I read in my quest to suck less and write more said, “It takes ten years to become an overnight success.”

I’ve been at it for five. I love writing. I love the notion that a story once stirred in my mind might tickle other brains.

So now I must ask, why will you write?

I’ve met those who never expect or even want their words published for others to read. They write as therapy or posterity. They write journals, diaries, or manifestos.

Many imagine a quick and easy path to wealth or fame. It’s possible, unlikely as hell, but possible. Sure, anyone who’s gone to school can write a sentence. It takes little more to string them together to tell a story. But is it compelling? As I write, zillions of folks are publishing their first works via the internet. A hopeful best-selling author has gone from a small fish in a big pond to plankton in the Pacific.

Everyone has the patience for something. They tend to the tedious tasks in their passion with love and focus. I liken it to carpentry. I can purchase the materials, slap them together, and voila, I’ve made a table. But will anyone purchase it? Will they display it with pride in their home?

A carpenter finds love in the measuring, cutting, sanding, staining, etc. He sees the finished product in his mind and strives to bring his vision to reality.

I know a carpet cleaner who’s passionate about his profession. His face lights up while he shares his joy: to enter a home and restore beauty hidden by filth.

I don’t get it at first. And then I turn his story in my head and it all makes perfect sense.

He’s found his passion just as I’ve found mine. Will you find yours in writing? If so, congratulations. If not, mark it off the list and continue your quest for your purpose.

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