Why do I write? Why do any of us? It’s a trite question that has been answered with equally abused responses, such as “I have to,” “I need to,” and even “I’ll die if I don’t.” My overused answer? I always have. It’s like breathing. Some people sing, some people draw, I write.Perhaps the better question is “why do we bother to submit?” Just because you do something, doesn’t mean you share it. I’ve been writing since I was about 8. For ten years I wrote and showed no one. Then I decided to start sharing, start submitting. I put away the comic books and slingshot, and started working towards that pipe dream. And then I got discouraged.
Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
I was an amateur.
So I quit editing and submitting—but I still wrote. A lot of first [final] drafts are hiding in boxes and drawers. Trying to ignore the monkey on my back, I spent the next ten years on the fringe of the dream, eventually starting a horror community. I figured I could continue to feed crumbs to the monkey by helping those with more balls than me. I learned the business, I made friends, and I was having fun with my creative juices with no pressure to write. After all, I wasn’t a writer; I was a webmaster with no intentions of being a writer. I wrote for me, not the world and that was fine.
The monkey disagreed. Sure I knew it was still there, but I had quieted it. I was writing poetry, scribbling stories, etc. Little tidbits, just for my eyes, were still finding their way out on napkins in restaurants, phone book covers, and even the flap on a pack of photos from Wal-Mart. (I still wish I hadn’t thrown out that empty pack of smokes with the story notes on it.) And I continued to ignore the truth. Then one day, an author friend of mine—who knew I wrote ‘a little’—dared me to write 500 words about a scarecrow. Ok. After all, it’s just fun and games with a friend in IM, right?
The monkey was loose. He was hopping up and down for attention. And he was hungry, pointing at the drawers and boxes, making inappropriate noises and suggestions. And that ‘friend’? I still think he was in cahoots with the monkey, as he was no help at all in the denial department. The next thing you know I’m not just writing, but editing with intentions, letting him see stuff, and *gulp* submitting.
Three weeks after I sent out the first submission, it came back. It wasn’t a form letter, it wasn’t even a rejection. It was an acceptance. I read it seven times. I felt my face heat up with the flush of excitement. I felt electricity run through my arms and down my neck. I sat down and re-read the email… The monkey was loose, dancing with high heels and a hoola skirt, and he had no plans of going anywhere. In the end, the acceptance wasn’t from the publication so much as it was from somewhere deep inside myself.
Why do I submit? Anne Rice said, “To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” I’m ready and willing to be a fool… to follow the dream that spawned in that scrawny tomboy with the pencil stuffed into her back pocket next to the slingshot.
And while we’re quoting people, Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I’m leaning towards the first choice. Care to read along?