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.

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Story 1 – Imagination Man

Imagination Man

 

It is said that there are three worlds. The first is a world where the sun shines and the clouds glide and the rain falls; a world where people buy houses, go to work and fall in and out of love. It is a world run by people, money, fear and loathing. It is a world built to end.

The second world is the afterlife; the world of the soul, spirit, the phantom and the ghost. It is a world run by the dead, for the dead. It is built on hope, faith, happiness and joy. It is a world designed to last.

But there is a third world.

It is a world that both the mortal and immortal alike visit on a daily basis without even knowing that they are there. It is a world that is ever growing, ever expanding, laughing and crying. It is a nightmare and a fantasy; euphoria and dejection. It is a world between worlds that only you and I can see.

It is my world, for I am the Imagination Man, and I am always watching, saving and collecting.

The world of the imagination is a joy and a curse, filled and fuelled by the dreams, fears and untruths of you and those you hold dear.

As I walk my quaint chocolate cobbled streets I see things you cannot even begin to imagine – or can you? Did these creations come from your mind? Did these phantoms of the heart stroll through my gates from your subconscious? Is it your mind that is turning the light into dark and the sea into stone?

I talk with such bleakness, because, you see, I remember a time – the time of the child – when all things in your world were bright and happy; a time when the fields of corn swayed peacefully in the springtime zephyr and birds chirped and sung their early morning song. It was a time when the smells of sugar cane, candy floss and the crashing sea mists filled the air and everything that you ate tasted of toffee-apples and ice-cream and syrup. It was a time of simple pleasures.

I remember the day you were taken to the park by your grandparents and you ate tuna sandwiches and chocolate and your imagination turned my world into a giant climbing frame built of jungle trees, vines and rushing rivers of chocolate fish. It was a world of adventure, laughter and secret quests. That day made me the happiest that I had been for a very long time . . .  but it was not meant to be.

Soon after came the time of adolescence and your mind turned my world into a swirling vortex of hallucination and paranoia. Your girlfriend filled every window down my imaginary street, holding and embracing others in scenes that you tried so hard to detain. Soon every door was padlocked, sealing your fears inside. You held back your dreams to save your fears, but it was too much. At the tender age of eighteen the padlocks in my world vaporised and your nightmares filled my life. Murderers, zombies and back-stabbing friends cavorted about my lands turning the sky black and the sun red. My own imagination could not build enough walls to save me from your ghosts.

But the worst was yet to come. Now, in your tender middle age, your imagination is all but gone. I spend my days walking through endless white seeing nothing but lottery balls and money piles and naked colleagues. I see only the bad, never the good. You no longer imagine a world that is free and limitless, but a world that is destined to be, and forever will be, restricted and closed. You see the worst and never the best; you do not dream of candy forests and talking pets, you do not think about the girl next door in a pretty white dress, you just see your life, your wife and the end of time. There is no light in your world, only dark.

I am here to tell you, dear reader, that that is not the way it’s meant to be. Dreams are only what you make them. You may think that these dreams of yours are nothing but imagination that must be restrained, but in my world they are fact, fate, and everything that matters. Don’t you see? If you lock your dreams away behind padlocked doors then there, forever, they will remain, until one day the locks will no longer hold and they will buckle and break and your mind will once again be set free and be filled with dreams and hopes and aspirations . . . but, by then it will be too late. By then you will have entered the age of the old and you will be able to do nothing but imagine your life in the way it could, and should, have been.

Dear reader I urge you, do not lock away your dreams, for they are real, more real than you could ever see; only you could see, if you put down the locks, and let them be.

For I am the Imagination Man and I come from a world where nothing is as it seems.