“Why do you write?” a friend asked me the other day. “I mean, you’re retired. You could be relaxing, traveling, playing bridge, or any of those other activities retired people engage in.”
“Well, first, I don’t play bridge,” I answered. “But the simple answer is: I write because I must.” Call it therapy, a need for expression, or a passion for the power of language, but I can’t seem to get through a day without writing. Until recently, I didn’t realize it has always been this way with me.
As a child, I kept a journal and wrote poetry; not good poetry, mind you, but rhyming stanzas hewn from the depths of my young, full heart. I also dabbled in playwriting that reflected what I perceived to be the human condition. Oh, if I had known then what I know now about the human condition!
As an angst-ridden teenager, I filled my journals with hyperbolic declarations of frustration, betrayal, lost loves, self-doubt, and unfulfilled dreams. Angst. How I wish I hadn’t destroyed those journals later out of embarrassment! It would be fun to reminisce.
Now I write short stories and novels. I’d like to think my writing has matured a bit since those first sincere, pathetic efforts, but I find I’m still learning every day. The more I learn about the written word, the more I realize I don’t know.
My publisher insists I’m a professional author because I get paid for writing. But even after publishing three novels, I sometimes feel like a novice. Had I known I would one day become an author, I would have spent more of my youth digesting the works of great writers instead of spilling my childish guts on the pages of a teenager’s diary. Now I wear a ragged, invisible tee shirt that reads: “So many books; so little time!” Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare (okay, maybe not Shakespeare), Thomas Wolfe, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and George Eliot all awaited my attention when I was reading the likes of Nancy Drew, The Little Princess, and Black Beauty.
To write professionally, one must cut off one’s arm and lay the bloodied, open wound before a pride of ravenous lions. The act of writing well, as the world’s classic authors would attest, is plain hard work.
So, why do I write? Story-telling is rife with enchanting word-play, literary decision-making, and the incurable disease of soul-baring. At its worst, it opens one to the potential for criticism, rejection, and even poverty. At the same time, words—when they work—propel their creator toward states of euphoria and gratification of the highest order.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com