Wow! I’m a little stunned by all the messages of support we’ve received for our little old blog - you guys are awesome! It truly means the world to us all (you should see how nervous we are behind the scenes here! LOL)
I’m Rachel, Thursday’s child – the one “with far to go”, if you remember the old rhyme (quite apt, really, since I’m the only one of us four gals yet to finish a first draft) – and I’m here to round off our “getting acquainted” week with my answer to the question, “why do you write?”
Deep breath ...
Because if I did not, I would be insane.
I know it sounds flip; but it's completely true. Let me explain ...
A few – ok, many - years ago, I worked as a lawyer for a government board that basically functions as Internal Affairs for lawyers. My job was to investigate and prosecute other lawyers for “unprofessional conduct” - things like running a brothel out of the spare offices in your law firm, or billing clients for your time when you’re actually out test-driving a Porche (I kid you not, these things happen!)
To do my job, I’d listen to people’s stories of how their lawyer was screwing up their case and ripping them off; I’d listen to lawyers bemoan their impossible-to-please clients. Then, after having every side of the story, and once I’d hunted down and dissected every objective fact I could, it was up to me to work out what the dickens had actually happened, and pull together a coherent story from a morass of facts, suspicions, rumours and downright lies.
I really loved that job.
Then life marched on, and along came the three best things in my life – my children. I tried the juggle of kids and career, but in the end it became clear that for me, I could work, or I could be sane, but I could not be both. So I became a stay at home mum. The daily juggle disappeared, I loved spending more time with my kids and for a while, I thought I had my problems licked. But soon, a different kind of madness began to descend. Not the manic, out of control crazy I’d left behind; this was the slow, cell-by-cell, turning-of-the-unused-brain-into-sludge, type of madness. I felt incredibly guilty for feeling this way; shouldn’t staying home with the kids, using my brain for nothing more challenging than compiling the weekly grocery list, be enough?
For me - no.
So, what to do?
I’d always read, voraciously. I wrote (bad) poems and (even worse) short stories through my childhood and teens … why not try to stop my brain from rotting by using it to write a book? After slogging through two degrees and a career in law, I knew I could pump out the words; and really, exactly how hard could this novel-writing caper be?
I hear you all laughing.
Yes - it is HARD.
But back in 2006, my naivete is what started me off on my book - tapping away at the computer when the kids were napping or at school, not telling a single soul what I was up to - not even my husband - for the longest time. It felt damn good. I was using many of the skills I'd needed in my job, I had something to do that was just for me; and slowly, the tide of madness retreated. And from that inauspicious start – writing to stay sane - I’ve discovered I have many reasons that keep me writing:-
~ I get to indulge my passions for history, research, and all things French. I studied and fell in love with nineteenth century French History at university, and that’s where I first plonked my characters –on the platform of Paris’ Gare du Nord, disembarking from a train in a swirl of steam and cinders. Writing lets me spend part of each day in a city and an era that I love; where I can watch the sun rise above slate-grey, mansard rooftops, or inhale the exquisite scents of the roses blooming in the glass houses of the Bois de Boulonge, or listen to the clatter of hooves and coach wheels over cobblestones … ah, it’s magic.
~ I adore working with words, and I’m endlessly fascinated by the process of transferring the story in my head to the page. I’ve climbed one HUGE learning curve in terms of craft these past years, and I’m still learning. I hope I always will be.
~ Creating characters with lives so much more interesting than mine, yet making them believable … that’s a thrill like no other. And I will freely admit that messing with my characters’ lives very much satisfies the control freak in me!
~ I’ve always loved stories; writing my own is a serious blast. I thrive on the challenge of telling the kind of story I love to read – suspense, mysteries, thrillers - and it’s a little intoxicating to dream that some day, my words may keep someone perched on the very edge of their seat – the exact spot I love to be when I read.
~ And these days, I write because the end of my first draft is nigh. My youngest child is now at school, and with the extra time and the confidence boost of winning a short story competition a little while back (my kids love me for that – they couldn’t care less about the story, but the prize money did buy them a crazy-big trampoline!), I’m getting down to the business of finishing the first draft of my book. Maybe – just maybe – I’ll have it done by Christmas. Stick around and see how I go!
Bottom line … I write because it gives me the intellectual and creative stimulation I crave; I write because I am now completely addicted to it and cannot stop; and I write because if I didn’t, I just KNOW I’d be typing this post from inside a padded cell ...
So – what do you do to stay sane? Do you write? And if you do, what is it - beyond keeping you sane - that keeps your butt in the chair?
(And when you comment, you'll be in the running to win a copy of this week's book giveaway - Fire in Fiction, by uber-agent Don Maass. How cool is that?)