Why I Write

 

Today is my birthday. This time last year, I was hard at work revising my novel for a prospective agent.  When I sent her my revisions, I was as breathless as if I’d run the novel all the way to New York myself… The rejection took five months. The agent loved it, but she didn’t have time to represent a new author. She was intrigued, but she didn’t know if it was marketable.

There was also the time I got two rejections from two different editors in the same day for the same work.

“This is great,” said editor #1. “But I think the voice is too old for young adult.”

“Beautifully written,” said editor #2. “But I think the voice is too young for young adult.”

Like most aspiring authors, I’ve received a lot of rejection and heard how every author I admire has gotten them too. I know it is part of the process of putting my work out into the world, but as I sit here, a year older but not-so-much the wiser, and still no published work to my name, I have to ask myself:

Why am I here typing in the wee hours of the morning instead of sleeping or catching up on my mountain of laundry or anything else deemed more outwardly productive?

Why do I write?

In olden times, there was a belief that immortality was gained through story and song. To become part of a story was to live beyond our short time on earth. To be stricken from the stories or even worse to never do a deed worthy of the telling was to disappear into a purgatory of lost memory.

My need to get up before the sun to write might put me in the minority, but all of us have a story we need to tell. We all want to remember and be remembered.

When I was a kid, the carnival came to town for one week every year. Our carnival had a mad house with the usual hall of mirrors that made you look fat or tall or skinny. The crazy thing about this mad house was that it looked really small from the outside, but inside it was too wide and deep to be contained by the outer facade. I walked around and through the mad house countless times, but I never could figure out how the illusion worked. I wondered who built that mad house. When he looked at it did he see the illusion of smallness like I did, or could he see how wide and deep it was even when he stood outside?

People are mad houses. We seem small and contained but inside we are all wide and deep. It is a rare and beautiful thing to be allowed inside another person, and just like the carnival, it is usually fleeting. But on a blank page I can hold in my hand what usually slips through my fingers. That human connection.

Stories satisfy a human need to share and be understood. In “real life” those needs aren’t always met. We don’t have the time, or we weren’t brave enough when the time was right. We walk away from love and friendship because somewhere along the way we learn it is better to shoot first than be outdrawn.

I write because human connections are rare. More often than not, we miss each other completely. In stories, we are found…unraveled and fragile, rediscovered in the wide and deep imagination of another. Fleeting and immortal all at once.

Here’s to my connections lost and found. The stories that gave me another beautiful trip around the sun.

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20 thoughts on “Why I Write

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  1. Inspiring post, Angie. Happy Birthday and here’s to another magical year. Your stories and poems make my heart sing. I was up in the wee hours too painting and creating that other world. Something that just has to be done to get it out of my head. See ya later in the world that exists between suns. Hugs to you!

  2. Beautifully done. We are mad houses, all of us…

    I’ve had similar conflicting (and somewhat mystifying) rejections. Best wishes on your writing & happy birthday.

  3. It is very true…..we turn away far too often. We do not allow someone else to explore our personal depth. Or, we do not recognize an invitation from another to explore theirs. Hesitation, previous experiences gone bad, our personal comfort zones rejecting the challenge…..we find many “reasons” to avoid risk. Perhaps our desire to avoid the risk completely blinds us to the reward. Perhaps the risk is simply a product of our own making. All stories are born of reality.

    1. Beautifully said as always, Rob! That is why I think storytelling is such an important part of being a full human being..because when we imagine ourselves as others we practice looking at the world from another perspective. And I agree…perhaps risk really is a product of our own making. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. Rob (I’m Bob), a friend’s recent FB post came to mind after reading your reply. The words are spoken by a character in a Martin Amis novel: “My theory is – we don’t really go that far into other people, even when we think we do. We hardly ever go in and bring them out. We just stand at the jaws of the cave, and strike a match, and ask quickly if anybody’s there.”

  4. Wonderful post. People are mad houses – I LOVE that. So true! May you have the happiest of birthdays. And keep writing…

  5. incognito: I’m in here somewhere, but I don’t trust you with me. Nice piece! Thank you! Happy Birthday Angie Flanagan!

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