Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 27, 2015

A Reason to Write



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?

About Orly

orly1.jpgAfter 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.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website, www.orlykoniglopez.com.

41 comments on “A Reason to Write”

  1. Inhale also always written to heal. Although I can't call it a journal, I did write the truth, in long essays to myself. I've saved every one and someday I hope to share those with my loved ones before they find them in that metal box going through my things after my passing.
    Since Instated writing novels, I have written less essays. True, there has been less drama in my life since the too, but I think, like you, I am finding solace in my characters and their drama.
    Thanks for sharing. I think we are all better writers because of our emotional UPS and downs.

    1. As writers I supposed we need the emotional ups and downs to write better stories. And some of us need the emotional ups and downs in our manuscripts to be more balanced people. 🙂

  2. Yes! Thanks for the post. I come from a "kids should be seen and not heard" family, and this conditioning hasn't served me well in adulthood. I believe this is why I always communicated better in writing. As far back as elementary school, I aced every essay test -- because writing was where I felt most comfortable; I could express my thoughts much better in that form, perhaps because it was "free and available" for me, where verbal communication was not. Writing did help me through a very dark time in my own life. I had no support; my journal was my only friend. I turned that journal into a manuscript and guide for women who've experienced molar pregnancy. Though after that first draft, it seemed way too personal and I felt like my grief, my broken heart and body were on display for the world; I felt it was time to leave it all in the past and move on--finally. But that exercise helped me more than I can ever express, and showed me that I can write a book. I can go the distance. Have a great weekend!

    1. For me at least, writing is so much more healing than talking. I'm glad to hear it helped you as well. And yes, you can go the distance!!

  3. Absolutely and exactly! I just wrote about this also in my latest post (explaining this idea to a Book Club group). If I try to think of what my characters are going to say, I come up with nothing. But once I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), they start talking and acting up and write the way. And yes, writing is the way to find my own way, through my fictional characters. Thanks for a great post!

  4. Ha! I'm generally in too much denial to even admit that I write for emotional reasons. But yes, I believe I tend to write to some perfect 'other' out there who will get me in ways nobody in real life ever has or ever could. It's a lonely art.

    1. Interestingly enough, Sandra, I don't see it as a lonely art. Those "perfect others'" as you so brilliantly call them, don't judge. They exist in our minds and hearts and by releasing our emotions and fears to them, we -- well, I do at least -- feel less alone. I've let go of a secret that's kept me from moving forward in some way and even if only the perfect 'other' in my mind knows, that's enough.

    2. Sandra--your post made me laugh (in a good way). I write fiction. It's all about denial! 🙂

  5. Oh Orly, with this, you explained something I always wondered about...I'm not my characters, but...

    'But through their emotional journeys, I can release my own fears and heartaches and dreams.' so love that.

    So very true. And it IS safe. Since only I can see the tangled mutilated thread of my own truth, woven into the story, I'm anonymous. So much so that sometimes I don't see the significance myself, until I read the finished book.

    Don't you love it when that happens? Another reason I'll never stop writing. Thank you for a beautiful, thought-provoking post.

    How's that for an out-of-the-cave troll? Awesome, my friend!

    1. Not so out of the cave after all, Laura, if you think that I mainly talk to imaginary people. 🙂

      And you're right, a lot of times I don't realize the significance until after it's written and I've walked away from it.

  6. Hi Orly--great post. The writing process is a strange animal. I think it's the same for all of us and yet uniquely different for all of us all at the same time. I write fiction and tend to draft scenes in dialogue. For me, I know what the characters are saying before I get to the keyboard. They chat, badger, flirt, argue, whine, demand, tease. The only way to shut them up is to get their talking on the page.

    1. I love this ... "I think it’s the same for all of us and yet uniquely different for all of us all at the same time." So true!! Thanks for stopping by this morning!

  7. This is lovely, Orly. I think of fiction writing as a conversation--with myself, with my readers, with the universe at large--a conversation where the most important truths can be shared in story form, so that all of us know we're not alone in our pain, confusion, or joy.

  8. I have also always felt a resonance with that quote, and I also am a terrible journaler. I'll write maybe half a dozen times, then stop. Years later I'll pull out that journal thinking I should start up again. I'll read what I wrote and tear it out, the pages bound for the shredder. I used to feel this was some sort of failing (I have a couple friends who have journals chronicling their entire lives!) but my attitude has changed on that. Look at all the people who left instructions that their papers and letters be burned upon their death. It's the act of writing it out that is cathartic. That doesn't mean we want people to read and discover our deepest failings and insecurities. 🙂

    1. YES!!!! Thank you, Erin! 🙂
      Although I have to admit that even writing out those emotions makes me feel like a dweeb. I just can't do it. But if I release my emotion through writing something completely different, I can walk away feeling so much better.

  9. Thank you for the wonderful post, Orly.

    This really resonated with 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." So, so true!

  10. I am also a terrible at journals. Right from my early teens I'd hold abrupt cremations, sending my innermost thoughts up in flames. Just having them sitting in a drawer made them real and, somehow, heavy.

    Poems though, I still have hundreds of angsty poems from over the years, everything from first love, to first loss to marriage and motherhood. They're removed enough from me to allowed to remain I guess, but still get the job done.

    And fiction...I sent my first finished manuscript to my cousin to get her feedback and she immediately pointed out a similarity between my two main characters - teenage brothers - and myself and my younger brother. So much for anonymity 😉

  11. Wow! What an insightful piece, Orly! And I am so honored you would mention my words. We talked about writing as therapy this week in workshop and we all agreed, our work springs from the mind and heart processing how we experience life. Our work, in essence, is how we SURVIVE life - and I think, why writers have the ability to life so very fully. xo

  12. Orly, that quote went straight to my heart because it is exactly why I write but I never realized it. The only drawback for me, is that I have to watch I don't put too much of me in the characters. However I have learnt to recognize when too much Susan appears, most of the time. Loved your article.

  13. I wrote my third book after my dad died. It was my therapy. Thanks for this post, Orly!

  14. Wonderful post Orly! I know I escaped into my fiction when my youngest son was sick for an extended period of time. I never consciously thought about working through my feelings as I was writing, but looking back on what I wrote then, I see I did some of that too. Thanks for making me more aware!

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