A Vicious Compulsion

A question often asked between writers is, why do you write? Strangely, I don’t encounter it from non-writers. Non-writers seem to understand that I’m a writer. Writers (and potential writers) want to understand why.

The flip answer is that I must. I’m compelled by nature or desire. Sometimes I think it’s an escape and an addiction. Writing about other characters, worlds and situations permits fight from my life blues. Those are shallow answers.

In truth, I follow a few cycles. One cycle is that I enjoy reading. Reading entertains and educates me. Reading fertilizes thought and wonder and introduces me to new mysteries and solutions, and helps me keep growing. Reading is enjoyable, and I admire writers that can tell stories. I want to emulate them. So that cycle is that I read and I want to be like those who wrote what I read, so I write, and then I read more.

The second cycle cascades from that first cycle. The thought, that would be an interesting story initiates the second cycle. Headlines, images, comments, trends and observations all trigger that simple five word thought engine.

‘That’ is often just a concept, though. Behind the concept are complicated questions to link it all together through words. The questions are about characters, motivations, situation, setting, and dive into emotional and logical issues of the story, and then dealing with the novel challenges of pacing, structure, arcs, climax, denouement, along with grammar and punctuation, and ‘truth’. The story must be truthfully told in that it must be faithful to the premise created and the established parameters. If I’m going to lie to the reader to create an ending, I have to establish early that I’m lying. This is the gospel that I developed as a reader who was disgusted after discovering the writer lied to me, or left something out, or didn’t really end the story.

All of this requires thinking. Gosh, I love thinking, especially the abstract thinking embraced in the promise of, “What if…?”

It’s this process that compels me to write. Once a character merges into my thinking, and their situation and setting evolve, it’s difficult to just dismiss them. I prefer embracing them and asking all the questions about them and what’s happening, pursuing them until this mystery is resolved and told in a story.

I suppose I can think through those things without writing it down or typing it up. (In a Steven Wright aside, why do we ‘write down’ but ‘type up’?) To put that another way without the distraction of those expressions, I suppose I can think through those matters without recording outcomes. Perhaps this is where the compulsion actually begins, to add the answers to these questions to the stories being told.

Sipping coffee, my preferred stimulant, and reflecting anew on the process and compulsion, I grasp how I see it as a painting. I grew up drawing pictures, sketching and later painting, breaking off from career paths involving art because everything I created was too mundane and traditional. Now I can glance back and understand that I was impatient and restless. Whereas I should have attempted new directions, I merely stopped and sought other creative avenues. In writing, though, I’ve found the challenge to improve and find new directions to be invigorating and stimulating, puzzles to be solved.

In a sense, puzzles summarize what it’s all about for me. I enjoy Sudoku and logic problems, and when I was employed or in the military, I enjoyed solving problems, and organizing processes. Writing envelopes all of these facets for me.

After that writing and thinking, then, I come back to the kernel of my personality that I tried denying, that I write because I must, because I need a creative outlet. Were it not writing, it would need to be something else.

It is a compulsion.

So here I am, at the computer again with my QSM, ready to write like crazy…one…more…time.

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