“Why I Write”, an Origin Story

IMG_20150724_115914Chuck Wendig posted a flash fiction challenge here, asking writers to blog about why they write.

Here’s my “Why I Write” Origin Story.

Appropriately, my origin story begins with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a.k.a. my first True Nerd Love. Along with a seriously impressive Buffy poster collection and some pretty bad late-90s fashion choices, my obsession with the female badassery that was BtVS also resulted in my first fanfic novel. I wrote it on an old, electric typewriter. My family didn’t have the money to buy a computer back then, but that was okay, because writing on a typewriter made me fourteen-year-old me feel all kinds of legit anyway.

And yes, it was terrible. I was fourteen. I think I legitimately burned it at some point. Coincidentally, it also was the only thing that I’ve ever written in German.

But the thing about it was, it got me hooked. Taking my own spin on characters that I loved was my gateway drug into writing for real.

But that’s not really answering the question of why I write.

For me, writing and being creative has always had a strong connotation with escape. It’s what got me through rough times. It’s what validated a lot of the rough times, actually, because at the end of the day I could write about them.

But really, my writing is very strongly tied to three personal discoveries, or Moments of Awesome:

I still remember, very distinctly, when I first discovered books about LGBT characters. I was reading Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, pretty much in succession. I still remember just how excited I was about people writing books about characters like this, about people I could actually identify with, people like me. It was a game changing moment, both in my reading and in my writing life. I realized that if I wanted to see more books about characters like this, I would need to start writing them, because the more people write diverse characters, the more of them would end up on bookshelves and cause similar moments of awesome.

The second Moment of Awesome was discovering voice and how much fun it is to make your characters sound different. I really learned this when I read books by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, whose characters I loved both for who they were and for how they sounded. Their quirks and imperfections turned me into a people watcher and eavesdropper. It’s what made me give myself permission to take risks, even if they strayed from grammatical correctness, and write my characters how I thought they needed to sound, not how I thought everyone else expected them to sound.

And finally, and this is probably my biggest extrinsic motivator, my third Moment of Awesome is one that continues propelling my writing. It’s the awesomeness and talent of the people I meet while writing. This sounds sappy, but the more I interacted with writers, both online and in real life, the more I realized that I had found my tribe. My tribe’s the people who love to talk books and writing, who never tire of it, who are kind in passing along their knowledge and resources. They’re those willing to nerd out for hours about plot brainstorming, techniques, even writing software and the beauty of color-coded spreadsheets. They’re the people who I learn from every day, who trust me to critique their work so they can make it better, which in turn teaches me so much about how to make my own work better. They’re the ones that prove that writing really is something that requires a community, because otherwise you just end up staring at a screen and doubting everything you do for hours. It’s my friends and their amazing talent that keep me writing and accountable and that’s both awesome and incredibly humbling.

And finally, because every origin story is only as good as its Black Moment: I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t admit that a good deal of why I write is fueled by the sheer conviction that fuck it, I can. It’s not just that people always used to look at me funny when I, a German ex-pat, declared that I was writing  in my second language. Really, when it comes down to it, writing is hard, no matter what language you do it in. It takes up an incredible amount of dedication, both in terms of brain space and life. It takes time, it takes commitment, it’s like that daily workout that you kind of dread and hate, but at the same time is incredibly freeing and gives you that satisfaction of actually having done it. It wasn’t until I had to give up writing for a few years that I realized just how much of me lived in the four words “I am a writer”. Honestly, those years sucked. They were years when writing was synonymous with depression and the fear of failure, the conviction that even trying was pointless. In the end, I had to get through it and I came out the other end being able to write again, having accomplished many things, while still working on others.

But I continue proving to myself that I could.

So, the tl;dr version: I write because I am a word nerd driven by the idea that she can somehow make a difference. I write because it’s so damn fun to take a story into directions no one saw coming. I write for the people who write with me, and those who give me the space to thoroughly mess with my imaginary friends.

I guess it’s easy: I write because I’m a writer and writers write.

I call this my origin story in part because today marks the eight year anniversary of my immigration to the U.S. and I love how much writing has been a catalyst as well as a constant companion in this journey. I’ve learned so much through writing and I continue learning something new every day.

And that’s pretty damn awesome.

If you’d like to share your origin story of why you write and want to participate in Chuck Wendig’s challenge, go write that blog post and paste the link to it into the comments on his site.

Now go, slay some words!

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