On Becoming an Author – Part 3: Why Write?

Route66RoysA personal question if there ever was one. Let’s start with my writing career and hopefully that will cause you so examine your own motivation to write (or not!). I had written a short story the summer after seventh grade. It was about a girl and me driving cross country in my favorite car like my idols did on a TV program called Route 66. Even though the show had two guys, I had a girl for a partner and our adventure began as we cruised across the prairie of Nebraska and came upon a huge multi-car pileup.  We learned that we could be great partners who rescued people, had the ability to be up to our elbows in intestines, and were therefore destined for medical school. I remember I loved writing and rewriting the story until it had the emotional impact I wanted. I gave it to my mother to read. I remember she read it, stared at me for a while, and then reread the story.

“This is great,” she said. Coming from my English major mother, that was excellent praise indeed.

“You should try writing it again without the female character. You’re too young to be writing about girls.”

I had no interest in rewriting the story so it sat on a shelf in my room until I needed a short story for an English class the following year.  As English class usually bored me to tears, my grades in that area were terrible. The teacher called my home and accused me of plagiarizing someone else’s work. My mother confirmed that it was my original work that I had written the previous summer. With what I suspect was considerable regret, the teacher did give me an A. I was fascinated by math and science so writing didn’t become part of my life for many years. When my mother found my letters from college and Vietnam fascinating to the point she thought I should polish them and try to get them published. I never did.

Man TypingWhen I retired from a super techie career of mathematics and firmware engineering at age 61, I was looking for something to do in retirement. I decided to see if I could write a novel, the first of which relied heavily on personal memories. That accomplished, I wrote two more and realized that anytime I sat in front of a keyboard story lines would come rolling out of my head. For all you would be writers out there, let me caution you… the ideas are only about 3 percent of the effort needed to complete a novel. Maybe you’ve heard that a writer agonizes over every word. It’s true. Each of my novels goes through at least twenty revisions before I think it’s ready to send to an editor which of course means more revisions after she looks at it.

Why go through all this? I live for the challenge of refining and polishing a scene until it has the emotional impact I’m looking for. In one sentence; that’s why I write.

What motivated you to write? When did you know you wanted to write?

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2 thoughts on “On Becoming an Author – Part 3: Why Write?

  1. Craig says:

    Craig:
    You’re a great man, my friend Rick. Keep on keeping on……..lol.

  2. Interesting the similarities in the journey. But in some ways I’m rather the reverse – I write the idea, then tire of it and move on. My discs are stacked with stories half-finished, quarter finished, and some I’ve forgotten so I can’t even remember when I read them back what they were supposed to be about! Only, say, one in five gets finished, and proportionally less are edited and sent out. I’m amazed at the amount of stuff I waste, really.

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