Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Write

From facebook:
I am going to talk more about writing, because it's better than talking about politics. I have a lot more control. I have been mulling and brooding over why I write. I never wrote for money, because I always thought it was a hugely unreliable source of income; and I never wanted to have to rely on publishers. What happens if the publisher wants changes you don't want to make, and you have to pay the rent? What happens if the payments don't come on time, and you need to pay the IRS?

I think I have written for undying fame, though I'm not sure that was ever an serious plan. The trouble is, only a handful of people become famous and even fewer remain famous, and there is no way one can tell whose work will survive or be discovered later. Well, Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare wrote for all time. So sometimes you can tell, if you are Ben Jonson. Even short term -- in your lifetime -- fame can fade, if you ever get it.

30 years ago I told the editor John Douglas that I wanted to be respected by the people in the field I respected. John made a polite, dubious, Canadian noise. I think an evil fairy was listening and gave me exactly what I asked for.

archy the cockroach wrote "expression is the need of my soul." I always remember this quote as "self-expression is the need of my soul."

If you write and spend time in the SFF community you quickly learn that your chances of fame and fortune are not good. So why write? That's the question I ask, as I age and have less energy. I guess I could argue that writing is mental exercise. If you hold a novel and half a dozen short stories in your mind and work on them in your mind, the mind is certainly getting exercise. I know parts of my memory are in really good shape.

Self-expression is important, as archy the cockroach points out. I have always used writing as a way to cope with a world that often confuses and angers me and to make something beautiful and intelligent (I hope) in a world that often seems ugly and stupid. I am talking about the human world here. There are things about the natural world I don't like -- tape worms, parasitic wasps, cancer, horrible infectious diseases -- but they don't bother me the way human folly does.

Love of making stories up. I made up stories before I could read or write and told them to my long-suffering kid brother. They were about a community of squirrels who lived in a grove of oak trees and struggled with evil cats.


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