Why I Write

I’ve occasionally wondered if I need to not write.

More often I come to this conclusion out of frustration or disappointment. You know, my friends are telling me about all the great TV shows they’re watching and concerts and restaurants they’re going to, and I think to myself, “Should I really be spending all of this time after work holed up by myself writing books that may never go anywhere?”

I got two rejection letters Thursday. I remind myself, “At least I got letters back.” Or as my therapist would tell me, “Thank them. You wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway if they weren’t excited about your book.” But I still get that sinking feeling: Maybe I’m wasting my time. Maybe I should spend my time doing something concrete, something that will make a difference or make me happier.

I’ve also intentionally taken seasons off from writing. After I quit my PhD program and moved back to Michigan to take a job as an editor, I intentionally took the summer off of writing. I tried to spend more time outside in the sun. Reading books. Going to theater shows. Taking mini adventures like canoeing the Rogue River.

But I’m not sure I could actually stop writing entirely.

The first year of my master’s program, when I was also teaching for the first time, was probably the time I went without writing for the longest. I was regularly staying up until midnight or one trying to finish my own homework or prep lessons or grade papers. One night, tired and lonely and frustrated, I wrote a flash fiction piece about someone taking a skiing holiday in the Alps. (Yes, total wishful fantasy.)

But I felt better for days afterward, and I remember telling my brother on the phone how much I missed writing. That I didn’t feel entirely myself without it.

Over Labor Day I went up to Marquette, Michigan, where I was born, to visit some old landmarks and spend time on the Lake Superior shoreline and hike outdoors. I forgot how remote it is up there, how you can be driving down a highway and just pass a rundown house with like three cars parked out front and rusted-out equipment everywhere. I kept thinking about different sets from Northern Gothic TV shows like Shetland and Hinterland, and it hit me that a mystery series set in Marquette would be fantastic. I was plotting details for the rest of the weekend—how the lead detective is a Finnish Catholic, how she’s married with three kids, how the first body is found among the rocks off Wetmore Landing.

So now I have another series to write sometime.

When I told my sister I was starting a new blog, we got to brainstorming, casually mentioned how fun it would be to do a podcast together (as one does). The next day, over text with our brother, he sent us notes for a gothic novel he was outlining based on his research into eighteenth-century opera.

“We need to start a podcast where we just talk about all of the books we’ll never write,” my sister quipped.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s