The story behind my stories – 8 Reasons why I write – Part I
Why do you write?
It’s the quintessential question often put to writers and authors. What prompts you to put a hand to paper or fingers to keyboard?
The short (and somewhat bland) answer is because I like it; the longer answer is, as I write more, the compulsion and need to tell stories—my own and others’, becomes ever stronger. Every year, (if not every day), the yearning to tell stories, and tell them better, becomes more and more powerful.
I write to inspire, to inform, to challenge, and to entertain. If we don’t challenge the status quo, how can we ever grow or hope to change?
This question was also a request from several respondents in my recent reader survey: why do you write?
Writing has become such a cardinal part of my life that I dread to imagine a life without writing. It will be similar to not being able to read or speak or see or breathe or eat or sleep or exercise or do art and live and share life with others. It will be pale and dreary— unimaginable!
Writing stories hasn’t always played such a big part of my life. It all started with reading.
Long, long ago, in a small African country, in an even smaller village, there lived a little boy . . . (which is all true), who learned to read the “Sus and Daan” and “Janet and John” books in preschool and kindergarten. He fell in love with reading, with books. That love changed his life. His love affair with books has, to this day, not ended. Only much later, during his twenties, did he fall in love with a woman.
During the decades that followed, the writing that took place was study and work-related. School, med school and anesthesiology training followed. Taking and keeping clinical notes also involve writing, but the actual storytelling and writing came later.
It was in late 2009 when a colleague, Stefan, said to me, after having listened patiently to my unburdening about work and life and the related stress and drama and hurts and joys and ups and downs: “Go write a book.” At first, I scoffed at his comment. Then, as the advice sunk in and I chewed on the suggestion, something finally clicked—weeks later, days shy of Christmas, I started writing my first manuscript. Thus a dream was born, which turned into an enjoyable and challenging hobby, soon a habit, a compulsion, and later, a highly effective tool of discovery and even healing. I’m working hard on turning it into a full-time career.
8 Reasons WHY I write:
In Part I I’ll elaborate on the first four. See part II for the last four.
1 | Personal enjoyment. I love it!
It was love at first sight, first with reading, then, much later, with writing. I love the entire process—the learning, the mastering of the craft, the growth that takes place, and the lifelong process it will remain. Also, the research that I do for each book.
There is much “bleeding” involved in writing, famously coined by Hemingway—referring to the labor of writing, literally giving birth (forgive the pun) to a creation—a work of art. Writing is art. Writing is hard work but brings great joy and fulfillment (and yes, great exasperation!) The marketing and promotional aspects are harder, but I’m learning that as well.
2 | To see and experience the joy of my readers.
It delights me (and I find great pleasure and satisfaction) to see and hear from readers how they enjoy and found value in my writing and stories, and, with the novels, going along on the roller coaster ride of each book. It is rewarding and helpful (and necessary) to get feedback from readers.
Most of all I enjoy challenging the status quo in my writing—whether it’s through fiction, nonfiction or poetry. It is crucial to make people think. Also to add lightness to people’s lives and shine some light on readers’ paths and help them find new hope and purpose.
It is a privilege and incredible reward to form tribes with readers, supporters, and other writers.
3 | It teaches me to read with intention.
It helps me read better, wiser, and wider. My writing is intimately braided together with my reading—the two feed off each other. Since I’ve started writing in earnest, my reading habits have changed. I’ve included much more nonfiction in my reading list and in fiction have widened the genres I read. It opens new and unexplored worlds for me. It expands my horizons (and vocabulary.)
I often read with a pen and notebook—fiction or nonfiction, jotting down powerful words, phrases, word images, and fragments of prose—not to copy it, but to help expand my subconscious and imagination. Oh, I do read to relax and spend quality time and find enjoyment.
4 | I find great benefit from the healing powers of writing.
Only recently did I learn the phrase and terminology of “writing as healing,” while having experienced it years earlier already in the writing of my novels, nonfiction, poetry, and short stories. Writing, like reading, creative art, and exercise, is medicine—good medicine.
It was during the past twelve months while going through considerable personal loss and work-related stress, that I (re)discovered the power of writing, and especially writing poetry—that I came to appreciate its healing capabilities. I like to compare writing poetry to that of doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), as it is used in the field of fitness. I discovered, learning to write poetry, as well as short, short-stories, was similar to doing HIIT with words, compelled to be economical with words, learning to sculpt word-pictures by incorporating metaphor, meter, and rhyme.
Oh, I’m still learning. I’m in the early stages of developing an online training course around combining writing and creative art as a way of healing.
5 | Writing is my daily fix.
For me, it's a lot like sleep and eating and exercise.
6 | It develops me as a person and writer.
It’s a universal truth: the more you write, the better you will get at it.
7 | It opens the door to many new friendships.
I've developed so many new friendships with my readers and fellow writers.
8 | I see and appreciate my writing as a God-given talent.
Like any ability, my writing needs nurturing and regular practice to hone it and make it stronger and better.
Here’s the thing: everybody has a story. I have, and you too. (Everybody on earth has a story—young and old, rich or poor.) Many of us struggle to get our story out, get it heard. Many of us are burdened by emotional wounds. We become “silent,” cropping it up inside. However, we can all learn to tell (and write) our stories. Storytelling changes lives.
We can learn how to let the caterpillar escape the cocoon and set the butterfly free!
Call to Action: How about you? What is preventing you from writing?
What is stopping you from telling your story? Everybody has a story—so do you. Let your story be heard! It doesn’t need to be a novel. Start with an essay, a short story or a poem.
We can help you get your story heard!
Next week: Why do I write? Read Part II!
This article is also published on Medium.com
You can also find a FREE copy of my short story, Young Maxime here. (It is the prequel to my novel, Maxime.)
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Image by Danie Botha.