Friday, April 26, 2013

Why I Do What I Do

You’re probably (well, possibly--I may be aging myself here) familiar with the children’s poem about the old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. I just browsed the file I keep fir possible story ideas. I feel like that woman—so many ideas, I don’t know where to start. So many books to write, so little time.

I’m often asked by a reader, “Where do you get your ideas?” or “How did you ever think of that story?” Not every idea blossoms into a book or novella or even short story, and not every idea is meant to develop into anything more. But the rush that comes with the ‘what if’ question that lies at the foundation of every story can be addicting. There’s just something about creativity and the possibility of what might be.

I’ve talked to people who engage in other creative endeavors and they tell me the same thing. A woman who designs her own quilts feels that same rush when she imagines the design and then watches it come together. Someone who creates objects out of clay, kneading and shaping the raw material into something useful and beautiful. The painter who sees the image on a blank canvas, and then draws it out with each brush stroke. The sculptor who knows what lies within a block of granite and chisels away that which holds the sculpture captive.

So, why do we need to create, to write, sculpt, paint, compose, bring the images and words in our heads into being? I think it’s because we humans are innately creative. It’s part of our make-up, what feeds our spirit. Not spirit in the religious sense, but in the sense of that which gives us purpose. Why do I do what I do—write? Because I have to. Because it’s my passion. Because in writing, in telling story after story, my spirit comes to life. And we writers and artists are compelled to answer that one question: What if…?

What is your ‘what if’ question? How do you respond to that innate call to create?

Linda Rettstatt


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

So true.

There is also the control issue. As a SW, psychologist, you must know that having sway over the ending is something we mortals seldom achieve in real life.

Veronica Helen Hart said...

I agree with Julie. I write because it gives me control over the characters. I can mete out punishment, offer rewards, and choose who lives or dies. Kind of powerful! And I, too, love the "what if?" part of creating. That's what I enjoyed about directing and set design as well - taking a writer's story and bringing it alive for an audience.

linda_rettstatt said...

Yes, there is the omniscience factor that plays into writing. Though I rarely know the ending much before I reach it. I may have an idea, but I generally follow the bread crumbs my characters lay down for me. I guess I'm more like a mad scientist when it comes to writing the story--add a little this, shake here, heat things up and see what happens.

Nikki said...

I always laugh when writers say they like having control over their characters. I'm like Ray Bradbury--they knock on my front door, then I follow them down the hall, typing madly. If I'm lucky they'll tell me what they're doing. Kinda like my kids that way...

I write because I want to find out what happens. Even when I know what happens in the end, I want to know how the characters get there.

Uh-oh. One of them--the sweet, self-effacing one--just picked up a gun. I'd better go corral her.


Big Mike said...

I've got eight stories floating in this old brain but I've decided this time to only allow two to take dominant position anymore, otherwise I get overwhelmed. Course, I am a guy (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)