A response to Chuck Wendig’s most recent Flash Fiction Challenge.
I write for the worst reasons. I’m in misery when I write, and in greater misery when I don’t. I write for others’ admiration, crave the praise and attention, and hate myself for it, a self-aware sinner. I want to write but fear of failure, and so I vomit into text documents and rarely edit my thoughts so I never have to say I did my best. I love my ideas and hate the work needed to make them into stories. I want to write, but really I want to have written. I call myself a writer and yet I don’t write.
Case in point: it would be hilarious if I completed this essay, WHY I WRITE, because I haven’t written a damn thing in over a year.
Well, finished a piece. A creative piece. College demands paper after paper after paper, which I write – eventually. Sometimes (read: usually) after the deadline. My go-to anecdote of my writing career thus far is this: my freshman fall seminar course required a 5-page final paper. I began it two hours before the deadline, and finished it five days later, on an emergency extension begged from the dean. That paper still earned a 100 percent.
This piece itself was spawned from procrastinating on a philosophy paper. Go figure.
I’m a good writer. I wasn’t always one, until my English teachers beat me and my self-esteem into the dirt and made us rebuild ourselves letter by letter (you may see a trend here). I had zero interest in writing for pleasure until my senior year of high school. That year, two things happened: first, I earned a 98 in my English class, and the first Hobbit movie came out. The 98 made me believe for the first time that I was a decent writer, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey drew me into the world of fanfiction.
I’ve daydreamed forever, as you probably have, too. On Halloween in kindergarten, while being chased by six boys around the playground in a ballerina outfit and running very un-ballerina-like, I imagined a scene where I had ice-skates on my feet and could jump and skid from bar to jungle gym bar like an ice-dancer-secret-agent. I don’t know where that image came from, but I distinctly remember imagining it. My daydreams often consist of me being somehow exceptional. For all my school days I was a Renaissance girl, a Jill of all trades. I never had the best grades, the most AP classes, the most leadership positions; never was the fastest runner, the best violin player, the smartest Model UN delegate, etc. Of course, these are bullshit measures of excellence, and I truly became content being well-rounded. But I still dreamed of exceptionality.
My first fanfiction was about a original female warrior character whose love interest was Thorin Oakenshield, a dwarf king in exile and the protagonist (although not viewpoint character) of The Hobbit. I took great pains to make sure that my original character – named Mirra – was integrated well into Middle Earth and could not be accused of overpowered, super-annoying, painfully-perfect Mary-Sue-dom. Mirra made bad choices and lost fights. She cried and got hurt and developed. Well, in my planning, that is. I banged out a 30-40-something-chapter outline in three days and only wrote out 18 of them. Six half-baked drafts of a 19th chapter linger on my hard drive somewhere, a sentimental penance of sorts. I don’t think about it much.
Since then, I’ve published several short fics and planned a hundred more. I’m best known on Tumblr for my prompt lists, which came simply from the frustrating realization that I loved my ideas than the work that they would require. I let them go – and created more because of attention-seeking behavior – with a small plea that anyone who writes these stories please link me to their work.
I have hoarded a few ideas and currently sit on them like a weird human-lady-shaped dragon who wears predominantly pajamas. (I do hiss if upset, though; this is not a completely dumbass metaphor.) One that I’m particular proud and fearful of adapts the show Sherlock – the recent BBC one with Bendyman Crumplesnack – into a full-blown space opera with the titular character as a space pirate. After a year and a half of development, I have 13 draft first chapters, a notebook full of scribbles, and a glorious fake movie poster.
Eventually I’ll explain why I write, yeah? Well, actually, here it is: I don’t know why I write. I haven’t figured that out yet. I know I love it, despite hating it, and I don’t think doing anything else would make me as happy. I’ve read dozens of books about other writers’ experiences on writing (including Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, my absolute favorite). They help, somewhat. They show me that my relationship with writing won’t ever perfectly match someone else’s, although we can compare stripes and shades. Of course, that realization flies into the void when I find another writing book to devour, because I still think I can’t write for shit and need someone to tell me what to do.
I can tell you this, though: in addition to short fics, I’ve published one fic of novella length, a drama-soaked work about what I imagined happened after the Sherlock episode “The Reichenbach Fall.” The piece came out well, although longer than I intended, and I got several positive comments on it. But I remember two in particular. The first one, the reviewer explained at length how she picked her fanfiction judiciously and that she rarely cried. I both met her standards and made her cry. The other was three sentences. “Great work. I lost my soulmate three months ago and found this work cathartic. Thank you for writing this.”
Whenever I lose all faith in my writing ability, some part of my brain remembers those comments and I go reread them. It’s enough to humble me, to hold onto, and to smack the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee silent for a bit, long enough for me to eek out just one more sentence.
A little over 1000 words, but still my first blog post in months. Thank you for reading and do check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, it’s stellar.