Why I Write

Posted on 28. May, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I’m not one of those people who knew they were destined to be writers from the time they were spat out of their mothers’ birth canals. I despise anyone who says he or she always wanted to be a writer. Really? Who are you trying to kid?
I will say this: I’ve always had an artistic side. By the time I was five or six I was drawing everything around me. Around the same time I was inventing stories, and I actually won a prize (a cactus!) when I was seven or eight. And I was constantly bugging my father to teach me how to play the guitar.
But then the years passed, and I had to put aside my artistic side because I had to deal with reality. My father died, and my entire family found ourselves dealing with poverty. My mother remarried a violent alcoholic, and I joined the navy. I soon got disenchanted with the idea of taking orders from people (the rebellious artistic temperament, I guess).
I went to work in factories and warehouses, changing jobs like some people change shirts, and it seemed as though my days of artistic expression had come to an end.
But then, shortly before my 35th birthday, I got laid off from work. I also got unbearably sick. So sick that I couldn’t even crawl out of bed. And this sickness just seemed to go on and on.
Finally, I decided I had had enough of spinning my wheels in life. It’s time to examine what I really want to do with my life, I told myself, and I narrowed it down to three things: painting (I was working in oils in those days), playing guitar, and writing. So, I began the process of elimination. As much as I liked to paint, my heart really wasn’t in it. I liked playing guitar, too, but I had come to music kind of late in life; I knew I’d never have the chops to play the way I wanted to. So, that left writing.
Without being aware of it, I guess I’ve prepared myself for writing most of my life. For years I kept a journal, tracking various events that happened to me and to people I knew. I accumulated character studies of practically everyone I ever met. I also collected my writing. I doubt that I have ever thrown out anything I have written, not even the most mawkish, sentimental tripe that would make me gag today if I were to read it. And I was a great collector of books and, especially, of great writing.
I am a very slow writer. I often revise my writing thirty or forty times (I know this because I save each and every revision and I number them). Sometimes I feel envious of other writers’ output—don’t get me started on Georges Simenon—but I don’t like to put anything out into the world unless it’s something I can put my name on it.
Still, my output has constantly increased over the years. I am getting better. These days I’m working on my second novel, still making changes to my first one, and I’m alternating between writing 24 short stories. I’m happier as a writer than I’ve ever been before.

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