What If…

What if I had written all weekend long? What if I chose a different career path? What if I hadn’t had children? What if I had married someone else? What if I didn’t live in Alabama?

“What if?” is the essential question in writing a story. Most stories start out with an author thinking “what if.” I spent most of my weekend on the couch, because my five year old was sick. While having my hot potato of a baby lay on me all day, I watched the whole season of The Man In The High Castle. I realize this makes me an extreme couch potato. But the story was so good I couldn’t tear myself away. I went to the bathroom a few times, and ate, and my daughter cuddled up against me and I provided her comfort, which is what one needs when they’re sick. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend, minus the “sick.”

This show on Amazon is so well done, based on the book by Philip Dick, which I have yet to read (it’s on my list). And it asks the question “what if the Nazis and Japan won WWII?” What a question to explore. The characters are so believable, and the suspense kept me watching. Highly recommended!

I tout myself as a character writer. The Devil Within mostly was written because I felt a strong connection to Will’s character. But the “what if
questions were still there. I asked myself, “What if I were growing up with an oppressively religious father? What would I do? What are the emotions I would feel? What if fundamental religion hurts more than helps? What if the person I’m supposed to depend on most hurts me the most? What if my ally is not a saint?” These are just a few questions I asked myself as I wrote The Devil Within. I’m not sure I found the answers, but writing through it helped me explore thoughts on religion, family, and guilt that I’ve had for a long time.

The new story I’m writing I’m asking myself : “What if everything is not as it seems? What if your whole life is one big lie?”

I often wonder why I feel the need to write, but I think it’s because I’m always thinking about the “what if” questions. Life isn’t black and white. It’s filled with choices, different paths, and to me writing is a way to discover what might have happened if…

“What if” question are you trying to answer today?


 

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What Is Writing?

This week I was in a funk. Down in the dumps. Not writing. Woe-is-me. Then, I changed my attitude. I started writing again, and I felt a huge wave of relief run through me. I’m a writer. I’m meant to write. When I don’t write I become morose.

I read an article the other day. It was an article from the New Yorker called Is Writing Torture? A young new writer/waiter in a cafe presented his manuscript to the Philip Roth, and Roth apparently told him “I would quit while you’re ahead.” Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love was upset by this advice and said writing is a “fucking great” job.

Their different viewpoints on writing don’t surprise me. Look at Roth’s writing. It’s dark. Look at Gilbert’s. Love is magical and wonderful. Life is amazing. Some people think Roth was only kidding. Being the older mentor who threw a curve ball at this kid to see if he would flinch. And some people think Gilbert is not realistic. Writing is not great: it’s hard as fuck!

I think both contradictory views are true. Writing is torture and writing is a “fucking great” job. I need to write. It’s not a want. It’s not a hobby. It’s something deep inside of me. When I don’t write I’m unhappy. Writing’s explicit job in my life is for me to be able to verbally throw up all the shit from inside my brain onto the computer so I feel like I’ve dealt with the crap swirling around in my mind and can move on. Writing is cathartic. Writing is therapy. Writing is a way for me to deal with ideas and thoughts I can’t quite wrap my mind around.

And, no, this does not make writing easy. Nothing about writing is easy. Hey, No Turning Back, my self-published book is currently sitting at a rank of 1,000,000 on Amazon, and I have no idea how to market it to get to more readers. It’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s hard to get your name out there. It’s hard to find readers. It’s hard when you write something and you think it’s amazing, and someone else tells you it sucks. But that’s the job just like any other job and you have to roll with the punches and move on. A writer isn’t someone who is going to quit because it’s hard. A writer doesn’t really have that option, because the need to write always rears its ugly head.

The thing about writing I find most difficult is not the writing part. A writer has to wear many hats: editor, marketer, public speaker, etc. Marketing is somewhat of an enigma to me. The point is to have other people spread the word about your work, but I haven’t gotten there yet. And I think a lot of it is a time management problem. With three kids, a day job, and a busy life I simply don’t have as much time as I want to put into it. If it was up to me I’d put a huge amount of time into finding more ways to market my work. But, I’m confident one day I’ll get to the point where I can devote all my time to this job.

So is writing torture? No. It’s a way of life, and life is full of ups and downs.