I started writing lyrics when I was twelve years old. My early efforts were journal entries confined to rhyme schemes. They overused hole/soul, skin/within, and love/above way too often. While I spent my teens singing my feelings, something strange started happening. I found myself asking a question that had less to do with what made me tick and more to do with my imagination: what if?
What if aliens invaded by posing as demons?
What if a cyber mob drove a girl to suicide only to find her ghost haunting them online?
What if a man discovered his depression was actually a person in a parallel dimension where happiness is frowned upon?
What if an exorcist challenged a possession victim to a drinking contest and the final shot was spiked with holy water?
The answers to these questions didn’t fit into a verse chorus verse structure so I let them float back up into the ether. I passed on my ideas, only to see them watered down in other mediums. I’d be playing a video game and realize it was using one of my ideas badly. If only I’d put it down on paper and gotten it out there.
Every one of us has a marquee full of blockbusters in our brains, but so few will ever get to share them. For many, the only time they share their ideas is to fill a lull in conversation, their story might be a fan theory for a franchise that’s already in production, or it might be something that shouldn’t be forgotten.
I started writing because I wanted to answer that question.
Sometimes I posed it in a way that applied to my life, “What if I’d told her how I felt when it mattered?” Sometimes I let it venture outside the realm of reason, “What if I traveled back in time to tell her how I felt only to accidentally kill my past self?”
Either way, the question was worth asking, because…
Writing Gives You Super Powers
Stephen King says that writing is telepathy. Neil Gaiman calls reading a form of empathy. The process is a shared experience that turns the imagination into something tangible, something real.
Writing is time travel. It allows us to bring clarity to memories, to refine our past into stories, or to alter it to play out the way we wanted it to be.
Writing is playing God, sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, but always in mysterious ways. We build worlds. We break characters down. We do the impossible: we create a situation that forces a person to change.
Writing is immortality. It’s more reliable than cryostasis, less committal than vampirism, and cheaper than uploading your consciousness to a server. It’s a way of telling future generations, “I was a thing. I happened. I may be gone but my thoughts live on.”
How I Launder My Emotions into Writing
When I write fiction, I compartmentalize my emotions to keep them from changing my story’s events, but sometimes I just let them in.
Sometimes writing is the only way I can take control of my feelings. Paper seems as good a place as any to vent, to put my nightmares to work, to have a breakdown without making a sound. The page is a place for fear to pose its arguments so I can refute them.
I’m too frightened of public speaking to be a comedian. Fiction is how I smuggle my humiliation to an audience. It lets me laugh with them.
With all the social graces governing my behavior, sometimes writing is the only way my thoughts get out there. With all those tell-off speeches bubbling up inside me, sometimes I need a place to say the things I’d never speak. With my ego wounded, I need a place to chronicle all the power fantasies I use to inflate it.
I write because I don’t want those ideas to stop at my brain. I’ve got the foresight to write them down and the audacity to think other people should read them. Call it an inflated self image, call it delusions of grandeur, call it sociopathic narcissism. Whatever.
I know I’m not special. Anyone can ask, “What if this crazy terrible weird thing happened?” I just put my answers into words.
Daydreams are only a waste of time if you never jot them down.
Hope you enjoyed reading my long winded explanation for why I’m in this writing game. I nominate the following folks to answer the same question:
Mark has written two noir novels: Killer’s Coda and Dark as Night. He’s coedited several collections on how pop culture intersects with philosophy, including The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Philosophy of Film Noir and The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers.
On Twitter @MarkTConard, Mark takes the inspirational quotes authors use as filler tweets and adds things that change their tone, like “and shit” or “bitches” which he uses to punctuate Shakespeare’s dialogue under the hashtag #ShakespeareBitches.
Jessica has one novelette and two short stories for sale on Amazon, and her blog houses a massive library of Flash Fiction, this is because Jessica participates in every writing challenge known to twitterdom. I have lofty daily word count goals and Jessica regularly kicks the crap out of them.
Follow her @West1Jess to find out what she’s working on.