It's funny, one of the first rules of counseling is “don’t ask why questions.” This is because the word why can make people feel interrogated. Defensive. Judged. And I understand this. I really do. Questions like why do you write what you write can be more sensitively reworded as let's explore the motivations behind your writing choices. But it seems odd to worry about being sensitive, when the person I’m asking questions of is me.
I’m a baby author. Actually I’m not even that. I’m prenatal still. That is, I’ve sold a book, which is awesome, but it won’t be out for a while now, which is an experience not unlike having a growing creature squirm and kick inside of you, knowing you’re the only who can feel it. But as literary gestation marches on, I know that I want to grow as a writer. And I also want to understand who I am as an author. What is my purpose? My point of view? My philosophy? I guess I believe that if I understand this about myself, then I can do whatever it is that I do, better.
But how to figure this all out? Well, first off, I started by making a list of common themes across stories I’ve written. This was actually a RTW prompt from last year, so I referred to my post from then and added to it. Next, I looked specifically at different character arcs to try and understand how it is that I think people come to change (unsurprisingly, one thing that stood out was self-knowledge). Finally, I worked to define my own values and belief system, and I also attempted to deconstruct where those values come from (family of origin, friends, education, media, physical environment, personal experiences with privilege and oppression, spiritual influences, historical events during my childhood, and so on).
Now my goal is to synthesize all of these concepts into one singular vision so that I can complete the sentence:
I write what I write because__________________.
This process is still a work in progress for me, but I’d love to hear from you. How do you understand the reasons behind why you write the things you do? Are there common themes/philosophies/values that show up again and again in your work? Do you think this type of writerly introspection is valuable?