I’ve written about this a few times before, and the issue has once again resurfaced. Being a writer means that I almost never get a full night’s sleep because my creative juices always seem to start pumping while I’m barely conscious, so that I must rouse myself into consciousness and write things down or risk losing them forever. Like many writers, I then spend the rest of the night trying to quiet my mind enough to fall back asleep, the new subplot characters and inciting incidents drifting in and out of my hazy view. Kelly talked yesterday on her blog about one of the things we writers sacrifice, and it got me thinking about all that an artist must give up for the craft.
The price of writing can be high sometimes, as it is on the nights where I can do nothing but write in place of sleep, but I do it because I believe in the importance of the art. I believe that contributing to the ongoing dialogue on the human condition is worth a few hours of lost sleep, or lost TV time, or even time with friends.
I believe in standing up and shouting to the world that which needs to be said. There are people out there whose rights are being taken away—what are you going to do to help them? There are people who have stories that need to be told and who have no way of telling them—how will you help expose the world to those stories? There are blank canvases waiting to be painted, clay waiting to be sculpted, pages waiting to be filled. No one is going to do those things for you; you must grab the opportunity and do it yourself, whatever the cost!
I’ll step back off my soapbox now—I just can’t help getting all fired up once in a while. And these things have been especially potent in my mind lately as I think about all that is involved in the early stages of a new writing project.
I’ve been kept awake again the last few nights by my unrelenting imagination, and decided to pass the hours one particularly long evening with some mindless TV time. I watched the 1993 remake of “The Secret Garden.” Instead of getting lost in the film and falling back to sleep, the movie started giving me new ideas about all of the child characters I’ve started to write about for the new novel.
I loved how Mary’s character just doesn’t take any shit from anyone, but remains a kind-hearted and good-natured young girl. Strong-willed and defiant, she possesses a caring inner core, and wishes only to have “a bit of earth” in which she can plants seeds and grow things. I began thinking subsequently about my own childhood and the kind of child that I was. Any writer who says that there isn’t at least a tiny bit of autobiographically-generated content in their work is full of horseshit; it’s impossible to ignore one’s own experiences when writing imaginary ones.
I was always a small kid, full of sass and curiosity. I was raised (and I’m damn proud to say it) to question and to doubt and to NEVER STOP WONDERING. That wonderment is at the very core of my reason for being alive was one of my parents’ primary lessons. I was brought up to speak up for myself and make my opinions known. To question authority when authority became oppressive. To gather all the information before making judgments. To seek out the maximum level of development for my mind as was available to me. I was taught to be kind to others, to make outsiders feel like they belonged at my side even if I had to go out of my way to do so. Above everything else, I was raised to be a good friend.
And which of these qualities do I want my pre-teen main character to have? Do I want her to be a little like I was? I want her to be bold, curious, and strong, much like I hope my own real-life children will be someday. We often hear writers refer to their projects or characters as their “babies” or “brainchildren.” And it occurs to me now that I must approach the task of creating my characters with all the responsibility of parenthood, without knowing those responsibilities firsthand.
Writing is a terrible burden at times. It can be a lonely, alienating, forever discouraging sort of endeavor. But I push on no matter the cost to my personal life, such as lack of sleep and relaxation, because my parents instilled in me a desire to carry out that which I was put here to do. Chris loves me for it, or perhaps in spite of it. My own family supports my writing in a thousand different ways. And that’s all I need to keep going, keep creating.