By: Marilyn L. Davis
Where Did My Why Go?
Have you lost your why? I think that happens to all writers. We struggle out of bed and stare at a blank screen, asking ourselves, why.
I think for writers, it’s as simple as remembering the joy we get when we create a semblance of order from the competing thoughts in our heads. I know I’m not the only writer with several ‘projects’ swimming in their brains. A novel, short story, poem, or problem-solving tips for the writer and blogger all vying for attention.
And all those clamoring thoughts need an outlet, or they bleed into each other, and we’re writing one chapter, then four stanzas, two tips, and dialogues for an unidentified character. In other words, we didn’t get anything finished, just more words.
We Each Have a Why
When I was writing Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, I knew my reasons for writing it. But I felt it was essential for anyone contemplating writing their memoir to understand why they were doing it.
Here are some of the questions from the book that can also remind you of your why.
- Will your writing speak to a particular audience?
- If you’ve selected your audience, who are they are? Why them?
- Do you want people to understand an issue you’ve overcome? Why is this issue important enough to write about for you?
- Are there lessons you’ve learned that will help others improve their writing or their lives?
- Do you want to connect to others in a meaningful way?
The feedback so far has been four fundamental reasons:
- To set the records straight.
- It’s not just Harry and Meghan who are misremembering; apparently, this happens with a lot in families.
- To help someone else.
- I could relate to this as I wrote Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate to let others know that recovery is possible.
- Create connections to others with a similar experience.
- Trauma, adoption, addiction, life failures, and successes become the common themes and resonate with like-minded individuals.
- To reflect on a life lived and understand the lessons.
- Each of us uniquely learns lessons; some listen to others and avoid calamity, some don’t pay attention and make mistakes. Others observe outcomes from the actions of others and either follow suit or ignore the results and get adverse effects.
All of those reasons are valid for writing a memoir, but do they translate to your blog or book? Surprisingly, yes. So, if you’ve misplaced your why, let’s explore how to find it again.
Your Muse Understands Your Why
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle
I fall somewhere between wannabe and real on my imaginary scale – Wannabe a best-selling author, and wow, I published two books this year – and they are selling. Those books didn’t get published without discipline. I wrote four to five hours every day for months. When I couldn’t focus, I gave myself ten minutes to play a mindless match-three game. To keep me honest, I used a timer for the games.
Then back to writing, and those pages to the editors and beta readers. Then I tackled the submissions for Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate.
Why? Because writing the memoir and how-to were personal goals, and like any goal, I wouldn’t accomplish them without discipline.
Why That POV?
Writers want to express themselves, whether for education, entertainment, or enchant the readers. Those are the three primary points of view for all of us.
Start simple: Ask yourself why do you want to educate your readers, or entertain them, or the most exciting, enchant your readers?
Often, the answers may surprise you. But surprises can bring new awareness to your writing.
Four Questions from George Orwell
I think when we’re given valuable information from prolific writers, we should pay attention, and these four questions from Orwell will help you find your why.
“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”
― George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
Back to Basics: Why Did You Start Writing?
Writing is not an easy task. Just think back to your first essay in school. I can still hear the moaning and groaning from Phil, who sat behind me in 3rd grade. We had to write a 100 word paper on “What I Did for My Summer Vacation.”
I went home and looked up essays in Collier’s Encyclopedia. Even then, research started my writing. Combining sentences from my diary, I wrote 100 words and wasn’t even out of the car to start my vacation at my grandmother’s house.
But I enjoyed the way I could add words – mostly adjectives, and look up words in my Thesaurus to make it more exciting. I apologize to Stephen King for using one.
My take-away from that first essay was that reflecting, researching, and writing were activities I enjoyed. Why? Because I was, and still am, a curious person. Now, it’s time to reflect on when you started writing.
- What prompted you to start?
- What enjoyment do you get out of writing?
- Why do you think you have something to add to help writers improve their writing?
Answering these questions and the ones above will give you answers, and yes, there’s a why in there, trust me.
Oh, Look, It’s the Misplaced Why!
Once you’ve found or remembered your why, let me encourage you to write and if you need an additional platform for your poetry, prose, or problem-solving tips for writers and bloggers, send us a submission; here are the guidelines.
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
For editing services, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.