I think it's generally understood that authors tend to over-analyze everything. The amount of questions that fly through our heads are innumerable:
What are some Irish baby names starting with the letter "F"?
What is it that makes the sky blue?
Exactly why does America use the ever-confusing inches and gallons rather than following the metric system?
How much arsenic does it take to kill somebody?
On a completely unrelated note: Can you be arrested for your Google search history?
Writers never come up short when it comes to questions. But I think sometimes we don't ask the right kinds of questions.
A common theme on this blog is how important it is to write stories with meaning. But I know some people have a difficult time discovering how to make their story say what they want it to say...or even discovering what exactly it is that they want to say. We get so caught up in plot and characters and asking writing-related questions that we forget to ask the questions that really make a difference.
We forget to ask why.
1. Why are you a writer? Don't say "Because I like writing" unless you want me to slap you upside the head. That's a superficial answer and not at all helpful. Why do you like writing? What draws you to it? There are so many possible hobbies and jobs out there, and yet you chose this one. Coincidence? I think not!
2. Why are you writing this story in particular? What are you trying to say through this story? Some writers argue that you don't need to be trying to saying anything at all. Rather, you should write a story and let people take from it what they will rather than trying to guide them. Okay, fine. But then what's the point? Why write the story at all? Anyone can throw together an ambiguous story and let others interpret it because they were too lazy or afraid to do it themselves. In fact, many people do that very thing. But guess what? Nothing helpful ever comes of it. So if you want to write a book that isn't empty and lifeless like so many other out there, then you need have a reason for writing it. And you cannot write anything meaningful if you don't understand why you're writing the story in the first place. So ask yourself what you want people to get out of this story. And don't start writing until you have at least some semblance of an answer.
3. Why is this story important to you? Often we write the stories that we want to read. So why is this a story that you want? Identify the parts of you that seeped into your story. You can be sure that they're there, even if you didn't put them in on purpose. Then ask yourself: Why? Of everything about you, why did that part show up in your story? The answer just might be that it's the part of your life that bothers you the most or the part that is most important to you. Make sure that you understand this. A story has to be important to you before it can become important to anybody else. And a story can only be important to you if you recognize what it is about this idea that speaks to you more than all others.
4. Why are you the one who can write this story? Why not somebody else? This question scares a lot of writers, simply because sometimes we feel like we're not good enough to write this story. Maybe somebody else should do it. We might mess it up! To this I say: My God! Pull yourself together! Go. Confront the problem. Fight. Win! If this story is important to you, then don't you dare give it up. You are the only one who can write this story because you're the only one who knows you. Allow me to explain: Maybe your story isn't horribly unique. Maybe the message and storyline is similar to others. Maybe, when you strip it down, it's just like every other story. But it doesn't matter. All stories are similar at their core. They're kind of like houses: All houses are similar in that they have a floor, a roof, some walls. But they are different because of the people who live in them: The people who decorate them with their presence, their tastes in furniture, their favorite colors, their love and laughter. It's the same concept when it comes to writing. You make the story special, you make the story yours, simply by being attached to it. Ask yourself what makes you different from other writers. Then decorate your story with all of the things that nobody else has: Your thoughts, your memories, your friends, your questions, your answers, your doubts, your passions. Only one person has the ability to do that: You.
Now, hopefully, after all of these questions, you have one of your own: "Why is it important to ask these questions?"
Well, let's look at something. Take the answers to these four questions. Put them together. What do they make?
A mission statement.
They embody who you are and why you write. And while that may not seem very important, it is, in fact, one of the most important pieces of knowledge you will ever have as a writer.
When you start having a hard time with your writing, when you get rejection letter after rejection letter, when you want to throw your hands up in disgust and burn all the manuscripts, you can look back at your mission statement.
You can remember why you are doing what you're doing. You can rest knowing that you are going through this fiery inferno of red ink and critical comments for a reason. And then you can stand up and yell, "Never give up! Never surrender!" and charge back into the fray.
What are your answers to the four why's? Or have you never really thought about it before? Leave your thoughts below! I always love hearing what it is that keeps other writers going.
Be A Writer, Not An Author
Write What YOU Want To Write: Why You Shouldn't Follow The Current Writing Trend
Challenging Writers to Create Stories With Meaning
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