So, there it was. I said it. I laid out the foundation of every insecurity I have about myself, and now a room full of people sit, silently rolling it around in their heads.
Just another monthly meeting of the local writing group.
Of course, they weren’t actually thinking about my flaws. Maybe a couple who are closer to me than most saw my personal investment, but for most it was an analytical exercise. They were evaluating a character I created for an upcoming series. That’s what we do as writers. “Write what you know!” is a mantra oft repeated.
As a writer, you accept your pain, put it on a character, and send it out into the world for passers-by to gawk at. They poke it and prod it, roll it around in the dirt a bit, then, if you are lucky they review it. They grade your pain. 5/5 would anguish with again. That is writing.
Now for the question every writer has to answer at some point, if only for themselves. Why do you do it? Why write?
When a certain wizard insisted on using the name of he-who-must-not-be-named, that was a statement. When you refuse to confront something, it feeds on that fear. It gains power over you. So, to take back your power, you name it. You face those feelings. You say what you need to say.
You tell your dad you miss him.
You mourn the child that didn’t make it.
You find a way to do the things you wish you weren’t so afraid to do.
You tell her you love her, even though you can’t be together.
Writing gives you a space to work through all the baggage you carry around day in and day out. That makes sense. In fact, many hobbyists write for that very reason. It is a safe little environment you create… until you send it into the world. Then it feels very not safe. Why share such personal baggage, then?
Because you are not alone. Someone out there feels the same, but can’t get the words out. More likely, a great many feel exactly that way. As they read your story, they say “Goodbye.”, “I miss you.”, and “I love you.” You do it because you know what it is like to feel alone, and you want to let them know they’re not.
What’s the character’s motivation? Why does he feel this way? I talk about his fears. His loss and hunger. Then, I see one person’s eyes unfocused, far away in thought. They get it. They’ve been there. For one moment, both of us are a little less alone.
That is why I write. If I can exorcise my demons while helping someone else get free of theirs for a bit, then throwing my anxieties, aches, and pains out there is worth it. Maybe it’s maudlin, but one personal connection can make all the difference. I know. I’ve been there. – R.