I’m currently reading a book by Hal Ackerman, a screenwriter, author, and professor of screenwriting at UCLA. The book is excellent so far, not only for it’s “how-to” qualities, but also for the “writing gym exercises” that Ackerman includes throughout. I have spent much of my time using these exercises to get me back into the habit and headspace of writing, and have found it very helpful. I’m never without something to say, even when I’m without something to say. Recently, one of his exercises asked, “Why do you write? What are your goals, professionally and personally? What do you hope to get from the process?”
Well, I write because I’ve always wanted to. I think stories are fascinating. They can elicit a range of emotion. They can make you fall in love with their characters. They help you imagine new worlds, or more accurately, they make you believe in new worlds and people and things and events that do not now, nor ever have existed. And I think language is fascinating, especially the English language. We have over 47 possible replacements for the different connotations and parts of speech of the word “love”. Over 47 synonyms for one word. And the only thing that makes a writer choose one word over another is considering what kind of love is needing to be conveyed. That amazes me. And that’s just the strictest denotations and connotations. Then you string them into sentences and paragraphs, and give them meaning. Then you string those sentences and paragraphs into events and characters and you can make something happen. You can explore a whole span of time, with people you’ve never met, and make them do and say things that you might have wanted to do and say your whole life. As the author, you have complete power over whether or not he gets the girl, she finds the treasure, or they win the war. Maybe I write because I’m secretly a power-hungry, control freak.
But it’s more than just the language, and feelings of creator. I’ve had stories in my head all my life – so many stories over the years, that I’ve forgotten more than I could possibly have the time to write. As an exercise for myself, I once free-wrote for five minutes each on 12 story ideas. And it wasn’t even hard. It seems every week – and when I’m really on my game, every day – I can come up with a new one. Most of them are bad, of course. Not fleshed out, just passing fancies. But they are constantly popping up, such that I sometimes think my head will explode if I don’t get them out. So, professionally, sure I’d like to be a published author someday. I’d love for a story I write to be printed and sold commercially for me to discuss and sign. But personally, I just want to explore what these stories and characters might do; how they might grow. I want to play with language, metaphor, irony, allusion, and philosophy. I want to make someone smile, rant, and cry in a matter of 200 to 500 pages. I write because if I don’t, I’ll be so distracted by living the stories in my head, I’ll forget to live my own.