The Reason I Write, and Who I Write For

Why do I write? Who am I writing for?

These are two of the most important questions any aspiring writer/artist must ask themselves. And, I believe, you cannot be truly successful, or know fully who or what you are, until you have answered them both honestly. Why are you doing it, and who are you doing it for? In this blog post I shall give my answers to both of these questions. Your own answers may very well be different (I would hope they are, should we all be the same).

Why Do I Write?

I believe it is possible to put every person who calls themselves a writer into one of two categories. There are those who write because they like the idea of being a writer. They see the likes of JK Rowling and George R R Martin, scooping up tens, if not hundreds of millions of pounds/dollars for their work and think: I can do that. How hard can it be? They think, and yes, most even go as far as creating a synopsis, either on paper or just in their heads (usually just in their heads). These people then gloat to their peers about how they are going to be the next big thing. They talk about how well they will do, how unique their ideas are, how no one has ever done anything like them before and the world will bow down and collectively drops their slackened jaws in sheer awe at the magnificence of their work. They are, for want of a better word, deluded. These people talk more about their writing then they do actually writing. On Twitter, they tweet famous writers and then brag to their friends about re-tweets, they go to writers talks or creative writing classes and act like they know it all, and, because most people do not know any different, they believe them, further ensnaring said writer in their own delusion. And through it all – through all the dreaming and bragging – they fail to see that these writers whom they hold in such high esteem (Rowling, Gaiman, King, Martin etc) did not write their novels because they hoped to be stupidly rich and famous and successful. They wrote them because they were, in fact, members of the second category of people. The true category.

Members of this category write not because they desire fame and fortune, but because they have to write. These people, myself included, write because it is a part of them. I write stories because when I walk or have a few brief moments of solitude, my brain goes to other places. For some reason, when I think, I do not think about bills to pay, the mortgage, work, my friends, my life. I think instead about other worlds, and deals with the devil, and castles in the imagination. I do not think. I imagine. This is a blessing, and, at times, a curse (excuse the dramatic cliché). When I imagine, I build stories, and if I do not get those stories out of my head and onto paper I grow anxious, fidgety, and on occasions, depressed. If I do not write I feel clogged. These stories, these voices in my mind, they beg to be told, and if I do not tell them those characters begin taking pickaxes to my memories and start dislodging my every day thoughts. The less I write, the less I remember. It is as simple as that. It is like these voices – these stories – that appear in my head are the voices of real people, somewhere in the world. Perhaps when people pray, those prayers are not heard by God, but by writers? It certainly feels that way sometimes, that if I don’t tell their stories I am somehow doing them a disservice.

So that is why I write. I write, because I have to. I believe that if you ask any successful writer/artist/actor/singer why they do what they do, they will tell you the same. This also comes hand in hand with success. To be a good writer, you must practise. I am still practising. I always will be, I think. But those writers who write because they want to will fall short in the end, because they lack the stamina, the will to put in all those novels. They lack the patience to persevere through the mountains of rejections, the bad books, the crap short stories, the mind-numbingly dull poetry, and so they give up. However, we writers who write because we have to, will always put in those hours. We will write novel, after novel, after novel, not because we are seeking fame and fortune, but because we must. And through those years of solitary story-telling our craft improves. With every story – with every 100,000 words – we get better, and in the end, after five years, ten years, fifteen, twenty, we arrive at a standard that is good enough to be shared. 

Who Do I Write For?

This is harder to answer than the first question, because since deciding that I wanted to take this journey, that I would attempt to turn these voices into a career, my target audience has changed, time and time again. At first I wrote for myself. As I said before, I wrote because I had to. I needed to. But now that I am being mentored and working on a book with an industry professional, I can no longer think purely for myself. I have to consider: who else will read this? Children, is the answer, but it is not the full answer.

My novel, The Miracle of Harrow Falls, is an upper-middle grade novel. For those who don’t know, that is for children aged 9-12. I teach that age range. I know it well. I know it very well. This gives me an advantage. If you were to look at the children’s book market at the moment, you will see it dominated by the likes of David Walliams, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Jeremy Strong. These contain the usual – the expected. There is a story, not too complex, light, humorous, and a whole load of toilet humour. I have nothing against this. This sells. It is big business, and children lap it up. But not all children. Being a teacher I see the darker side of children’s lives. I see children who are neglected, abused, bullied, at school and at home. I see children struggle to cope as their parents divorce, get ill . . . even die.

These children are not interested in fart jokes. 

At first, before I became a teacher, I would have said: “No! These funny books are good. They cheer them up! They take them out of their misery and make them smile.” But I am a teacher. A child came back after the last half term and informed me that her mother has lung cancer. She was confused, devastated. I can tell you, no amount of toilet humour was going to put a smile on her face. She didn’t need to smile. She needed to understand. She was in a dark place, and she needed to talk to other people who were also in dark places so she could figure out how they escaped back into the light. These children are after escape. They are desperate for it, and from what I see, they are seeking it in YA fiction. Children as young as nine read dark, disturbing YA novels, most of which contain content (Sex, drugs, violence) that they should not be exposed to. And yet they still read them. They read because they are in a dark place, and only characters also in dark places can help.

Who do I write for? I write for them. I write for the children who are going through things that no child should go through. I take characters and I put them through hell, not because I want to be dark and edgy, but because I want to show that no matter how deep you go, there is always a light at the end. I am not interested in books about underpants or smelly tramps or toilet-roll billionaires. That limits my market, and I will not get rich writing the books I do, but I’m not in this to get rich. I’m in this to show those who are so down they fear they may never get up, that it’s okay, that they’re not alone, and that if they fight -and I mean really fight- they have a chance at happiness once again.

So there it is. The reason I write, and who I write for.

If you are a writer, what are your answers? What are your reasons?

I.M.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is a complex thing, isn’t it? First of all it is subjective and varies from one person to the next. One man’s/woman’s idea of happiness may well be another person’s worst nightmare, and so, with that in mind, how on earth do we find our own happy medium? How do we find what makes us truly happy? Well, that too is a hard thing because only we know what makes us happy, don’t we?

So how does one go about pursing something so obscure and subjective, especially when no one else can see it, touch it or feel it? That, I believe, is one of life’s great questions and, consequently, one of the hardest to answer. It involves going on a journey that we are conditioned from birth not to venture on, and so it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience . . . depending on your own goal, of course.

Our society is not designed to promote such a life-long pursuit, especially if your own happiness does not in any way involve accumulated wealth or material possessions. We are raised to pass exams and then told to use those numbers to choose a vocation. We are raised to believe that the money we make from these vocations will make us happy, in one way or another. The more you have the happier you’ll be. The more you earn the nicer your house, the flasher your car and the more exotic your holidays will become. But, the problem is that money does not make people happy. Not really. Happiness – true happiness – comes from something much deeper than the material. Some would even argue that it is a spiritual process, and I for one agree.

Children watch their parents complain about their lives. They moan about their jobs, their friends, their bills, their lack of money, and for why? These children then go on to make the exact same mistakes as their peers. Okay, they may have different jobs and live in different places, and not all do fall into this trap, but most people end up with the same complaints and their children witness this and the cycle repeats. 

I once saw a video taken from a lecture by philosopher Alan Watts and in this video Alan asked his audience, what would you do if money were no object? This video opened my eyes and made me realise just how silly and flawed this system is. In this video Alan Watts asks, why would you dedicate your life to a job you don’t like just to buy things you don’t want? Where is the sense in that? This made me ask: What makes me happy? What would I do if money were no object?

I decided that I would like to be a writer and travel the world. The world amazes me. I love being outdoors, be it up a mountain, in the ocean, in the snow, rain, or sun, I just love being outside and feeling alive. Happiness for me is being able to look upon something natural and grand and getting that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach when you realise that the world is bigger and brighter and more amazing than you ever thought possible. To experience that feeling every day would be heaven, and then to write about it and share it with others would complete me. 

To me, happiness is freedom. 

I am in pursuit of happiness, and I am gaining fast. I can see my goal, feel it almost, and this makes me happy. The money I earn from my job is not what makes me happy, it is the job itself that makes me happy. It is not the car I drive that makes me happy, but the fact that it carries my fiancée and I to wonderful places. I have met my soul mate, and she makes me happy. I am writing a book and that makes me happy. I have seen wonders of the world and they made me happy. 

What makes you happy? What do you want out of life? Do you even know, and if not how on earth do you find out? Well first you must live. By that I don’t mean get a job and earn money because that is not living that is existing. You do not do those things to benefit yourself, you do them to make other people money and because it is what you have been raised to believe is the way it should be, but it shouldn’t. Working in a job you hate is the most unnatural thing imaginable. You get one shot at life so why on earth would you waste it doing something that doesn’t make you happy? Why do something to make someone else happy? Do it for you, it should always be for you. Everything. If what makes you happy is abhorrent to others then to hell with them. Do what you want to do. Life for the now. Don’t dream of a perfect life, just open your eyes and grasp it. It won’t come to you of its own accord, it must be you that reaches out and grabs it.

I wish to one day look back at my life and smile knowing I did everything I could and enjoyed everything I did. As Alan Watt says: “It is better to live a short life that is full of the things you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

I’m in pursuit of happiness. Are you?