I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I’m gentle with myself about goal-setting. I’ve never had a prescribed daily word count, and I’m not starting now. I may not accomplish as much as other writers, but I’ve reached the stage of life where I avoid all avoidable stress. Been there, done that, paid the price. For the most part, I’m all about the Zen these days. But I do have writing plans for 2016, even if they’re quite flexible.
Mainly, I plan to keep writing. But why?
After publishing five books, I’m not sure why I’m asking myself that question now. Shouldn’t I have sorted that out years ago? Maybe, but sometimes it takes the perspective of time to reach the truth.
Unlike many writers, I haven’t always written. I haven’t even always wanted to write. I came late to the game after a lifetime as a dedicated reader. I’ve heard other writers say they have voices in their heads, demanding their stories be written. I don’t. My characters don’t tell their own stories, with me serving merely as scribe. While I love the creative process of crafting characters and plots and the emotional rush of letting my imagination run free, I’m not driven to do it. So why put in all the time and effort required to write an entire book?
I’ve thought about it and have come to the undeniable conclusion that one of the reasons I write is for validation. It’s embarrassing, but since we’re being truthful here, I might as well face facts. I’m sixty-one years old and quite comfortable in my own skin. I shouldn’t need or want the validation of others—and generally I don’t—but there’s something different about writing.
I don’t write deep, heavy, soul-searching stuff. I write to entertain myself and others, to brighten readers’ days and lighten their loads. But even when we aren’t flaying ourselves open on paper, we writers spill our guts in more subtle ways. What could be more intimate than sharing your fantasies with strangers? And what is more satisfying than knowing someone else “gets” you—laughs at what you find funny and sighs at your romantic flights of fancy?
Do you remember Sally Field’s acceptance speech when she won the Oscar? She gushed, “You like me. You really like me,” and people made fun of her. I didn’t understand at the time, but I understand now. She put her creative product out in the world and needed validation. I feel that way about reviews. Some writers say they never read their reviews. I couldn’t do that. I need feedback from readers. I don’t need to be told I’m a good writer; that’s a skill I’ve worked on and continue to improve. I need to hear that someone understood and enjoyed my view of the world. I think we all need that. It’s like a hug that says, “You’re not alone.”