I was telling someone about my story the other day and they asked me what in the world possessed me to write a book. Possession is absolutely the right word. Life is about prioritizing interests, and I have many, so it gets a little stressful trying to carve out time for my friends, family, horseback riding, house chores, dog walking, writing and oh, my husband! Yet, the writing is almost at the level of an impulsion. I sit down and write at night the way other people sit down and watch TV.
I have been writing for much of my life. I kept a journal before I even made it to my angsty pre-teen middle school years. I repeatedly started a story about a mysterious house in the woods and I actually completed a few stories in high school. I also wrote articles for the high school newspaper.
Before the invention of blogs, I would send blast emails to all of my contacts about my adventures, my time working in Arizona and Alaska, and the three weeks I spent in Ethiopia. Plus there was that awkward couple years where I used MySpace as a blog.
So my propensity for writing isn’t a new thing, but the organized and focused approach as of late is a new level of devotion. Some of you might ask why. It’s a fair question, and I ask myself that same thing sometimes. But no one asks me why I ride and show my horse. It’s obvious: because I like to. But writing seems to need some kind of purpose beyond liking to share it in a public manner. I’ve said in my About Me section that I started the blog to grow a readership when the time comes to publish my book. But the blog has also become its own beast. Not a beast of burden, but a lovely creature connecting me to people I never would have met otherwise. People who have told me my words encouraged them, made them laugh, made them think or resonated with them in some way. Those comments are food for my soul, and an unexpected by-product of me just following my passion.
I write a monthly on-line column for a regional horse publication (Northwest Horse Source) and I wrote to my editor (I like saying “my editor,” makes me feel fancy and official) asking for advice in the editing process. I have recently been struggling to edit my manuscript, not feeling particularly inspired to pore over it looking for mistakes and problem areas.
She, Catherine Madera my editor, responded, “Just don’t give up. Writing, now more than ever, is a tough business. But if you can’t help yourself, and you don’t give up, you’ll find your niche.” Okay, okay, she’s not really my editor, but the editor who edits my pieces for NW Horse Source.
Her response to me was both one of the most inspiring and most depressing things anyone has told me about my writing yet. I find it depressing because I know she’s right. I know the writing industry and the publishing industry, are undergoing ripples of changes and fighting to stay relevant in an age when people largely receive information passively and electronically (TV news on in the background, Facebook feeds, Twitter trending tweets). But I also found it inspiring because she perfectly captured my possession. She said “If you can’t help yourself…”
I can’t. I can’t help myself. I mean, I managed to write 76,000 words in less than a year while working a full time job and not really even knowing what I was doing. And I believe those 76,000 words are strung together in sentences and paragraphs and chapters that carve out a lovely, gripping, and powerful story of the strength we all have within us. And I will get the dang thing edited, and I will submit it to agents, because I can’t help myself. I don’t know where this path leads, maybe nowhere, but telling this story that has lived within my bones for the last 10 years will be success enough, even if I self-publish it and never make a dime.
So that’s going to be my new response when people ask why I write: because I just can’t help myself, I’m possessed. I know there are others like me. What can’t you help yourself over? What drives you forward every day? I hope there’s something you’re passionate about, life’s too short not to have something that feeds you and makes you get out of bed every day.
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