What’s Your Why?

If writing can be so difficult, why bother? Some writers seem to breeze through drafts while others struggle through. I’m the latter type. I parse out words, agonize over plot, and plumb the depths of my character’s motivations. Writing, like many other pursuits worth undertaking, is a journey. But just as it takes some high stakes and a pressing motivation to drive a character out the door of their normal life to the unknown, it takes a solid motivation to continue to write even on the days when it gets tough. What’s your why?

Finding My Why

I’ve recently begun The Book in a Year program through the Novelry. After struggling to shape Parallax Error into something worthy of publication for the past couple years, I decided it’s time to pull in the big guns and get some coaching. Writing is a skill that requires development and, hey, if a coach and a writing community can help, that’s great!

Having only just begun this journey at The Novelry, one thing that stands out to me is the focus on allowing yourself to be you and to let that come through in your writing.

Key points I’ve encountered so far: Be yourself, take off the pressure, allow yourself to play and find your joy. Write because you love it.

To do this, I had to go back to the beginning.

Beach in Tofino
Image by Robert Nathan Garlington from Pixabay

Reclaiming Child-like Wonder

When I look at my favorite books from childhood, the ones that stand out all feature a journey to an immersive place, a sense of intrigue and exploration, and a sense of the wonder of discovery. Titles like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Secret World of Og, The Secret Garden, and The City of Ember are the type of stories that stuck with me as a child.

Why? Likely because of the way I explored. I had one sacred place growing up where I felt truly at home: the seaside on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. I spent hours immersed in the alien world of the ocean and seashore. I drank in minute details and tiny ecosystems — entire worlds at my fingertips in tidepools, the structures of washed-up jellyfish, and the pendulous fan of a barnacle as it ate. I was constantly exploring what seemed like another world and feeling the excitement of new discoveries.

As I grew up, this love of exploration continued to manifest in my reading as my favourite books changed to speculative titles like Ringworld by Larry Niven and Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer.

When I look at it this way, it’s really no wonder I love to write what I do! My stories often feature an immersive sense of place and a sense of wonder – particularly related to nature.

Image by Gayathiri Gengatharan from Pixabay

What’s Your Theme?

Many authors (even those who write in disparate genres) carry a theme throughout what they write (whether consciously or not). Themes like lost love, coming of age, or death can feature throughout their writing. To find your theme, you might have to go to uncomfortable places. Mining your deepest wounds can provide a way to enrich your writing (and Bonus! Writing can be therapy). Emotional wounds can lead to universal themes you can explore in your writing. For reasons I won’t bother to explain, my writing tends to carry themes of death, broken trust, and learning to love. Being able to go to these places in my writing can enrich the story and make the character arcs more satisfying. What is your deepest wound? Can you explore that in your writing?

Putting it Together

Just like a character needs an external and internal conflict/motivation, you’ve now discovered your external and internal reasons to write.

External why: Going back to childhood and the stories you enjoyed can help you discover what kind of story you want to write and what elements you want to bring forward in your writing.

Internal why: Mining your wounds can provide the emotional fodder for why you’re writing or what you hope to impart through your stories.

Above all, write because it brings you joy! The process of analyzing why I write what I do has allowed me to reclaim my joy in writing. A deeper understanding of myself allows for a deeper understanding of my stories and hopefully that will make them richer for anyone who reads them one day.

Image by Игорь Левченко from Pixabay

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for notice of new blog posts and book news.

This site uses affiliate links which means I may receive a portion of commission from eligible purchases through the links on my site. I only link books and products I have read and enjoy. 

You might also enjoy:

1 Comment

  1. I love this question AJ – the WHY of writing! I’ve been exploring my own memory of what books I loved most as a child and why lately. ❤️ Thanks for the great read!

Comments are closed.