That quote has always held true for me. It’s far easier for me to write what I think and feel than to say those things out loud. In my personal life, I’ll reach for pen and paper (more like keyboard these days, but once upon a time it was pen and paper) if I need to get my feelings out.
I often joke that I started writing because it was cheaper than therapy. The idea for my first book came during a rather dark time in my life. It should have been the happiest—right after my son was born—but other life complications made that period stormy instead. To let the emotions out, I started writing.
I don’t journal. I’ve tried. I can’t. There’s something about people eventually seeing my insides that gives me the willies.
But fiction … fiction is safe.
I can retreat into a fictional world of my creation. My characters can sort through emotional upheaval. They can confront the people who hurt them. They can change their lives in 300 pages.
My characters can do all the things I can’t always do. Through them, I can release the pressure building inside me. The characters I write about don’t speak for me and they don’t deal with the issues I’m going through at that period in my life. But through their emotional journeys, I can release my own fears and heartaches and dreams.
My stories are the family and friends I can’t always open up to. Through them, I can spread my wings. The stories don’t reflect who I am or what I do. But through them I can explore new ways of becoming whole again.
In the upswing of an emotional rollercoaster, I had to revise a particularly tough chapter in my current manuscript. Heart pounding, tears streaming, I didn’t think I had what it took to get through revisions much less the day. There isn’t a shred of commonality between what my character and I are going through, yet when I finished revising the chapter, I felt, to use Kimberly Brock’s phrase, a “quieting of the heart.”
I didn’t solve my problem and I didn’t solve my character’s problem—she’ll have to wait a few more chapters before that happens; I wish I had that much control over my own. The scribbles in purple ink were a result of my need for release. The process of writing allowed me to quiet my thoughts and feelings.
And that’s why I write.
For me then, a revised version of Ms. O’Connor’s quote …
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I feel.”
Now I want to hear from you, why do you write? What brings you to the keyboard or to pen and paper?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.