Why I Write

First things first; I know, I know, it’s been….actually, over a year since I posted. I’m terrible, awful, should have updated more…I’m just not hugely good at keeping up with things. But I promise, I will endeavour to write more on this blog, not least because now I have something to actually update people with! More on that a little later.

Recently, I’ve had a little crisis of confidence when it comes to my writing. This happens from time to time, when I begin to wonder if this is something I actually am good at, or if I’m just wasting my time bashing words onto a keyboard that no one but me will ever read.

I write for the love of it. Because it is one of those things I think (sometimes) I am pretty good at. I’ve always had good feedback on my work, whether it was on FictionPress, in seminars at University, or on Scrib. Well, less on Scribophile but for the most part, the critiques are still encouraging – just more geared towards improvement than anything else. And without it, I really don’t think my stories would have improved as much as they have in the last year or so I’ve been on there.

I’m not looking for fame and glory, though I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be a nice bonus. Eventually, it would be amazing just to have an audience, even if it was just one person, and to know I’d made someone smile through my writing – whether a short story or novel – or wrote something they thought of days later, in the same way some stories cross my own mind.

Isn’t that what all writers want?

Even without that though, there are other reasons I persist.

Truth be told, before the last year or so, things haven’t exactly been easy. There have been ups and downs, and through the downs, through some of the worst moments of my life, writing has been a persistent and constant companion. I have used it to work through my own thoughts, or to draw myself into a completely different world where the things I’ve been dealing with don’t exist. I’ve also used my own experiences to give my characters, hopefully, depth; in some, they have some of the less well-known symptoms of depression, or find themselves at some sort of crossroads, where they take the path I, personally, didn’t.

I’ve always used writing in this way, pouring my thoughts onto paper in the guise of fiction. And it helps. Whether or not what I’m writing relates to what I’m experiencing at the time, focusing on the words stops me focusing on whatever is bothering me. And if I go too long without working on anything, I start to feel drained, my fingers itching to get something written, no matter what it is.

Things have been a lot better more recently. For a variety of different reasons. But still, I write. I write because I can’t not write. I write because when I don’t, ideas and characters crowd my head begging to be let out. I write because, well, I’m a writer. I kind of have to.

The Value of Feedback

Every writer knows (or should know) the worth of feedback. Yes, we can pass our stories to friends and relatives but unless they have an eye for details the most one could expect is “I like it” or “Wasn’t fussed”, and some of them will say it’s great just to spare our feelings.

As writers, what we really need is good, constructive feedback. It’s great a story works but we need to know why. Similarly, a pair of objective eyes can go a long way in pinpointing what’s wrong, what doesn’t work, awkward sentences or grammatical errors we may have just missed.

I used to be a fairly active member of FictionPress. For those who don’t know, FictionPress was the sister site of FanFiction.org. I actually joined both in the early 2000s; FanFiction once I discovered I could write about Harry Potter, and shortly after, FictionPress when it started. Then I stopped, for a while, but while at University (possibly a little earlier) I rejoined the website and started posting more, as well as participating in The Roadhouse forum, where you could exchange reviews.

This worked out really well. I got to read some really good stories posted by other writers, and received a lot of great feedback on my work. Encouraging feedback, too, and through the reviews managed to realise exactly what I was doing wrong, and learned a few things about grammar that I hadn’t actually known before.

At University, studying Creative Writing, seminars were made up mostly of reading and critiquing people’s work. It was more important to be honest, and to be specific; to help pinpoint exactly what was right and wrong with another student’s story. And, under the right tutors, we were encouraged to experiment and try different techniques, styles, and to be completely honest in what we told others.

It’s something I’ve really missed since leaving University. I stopped posting on FictionPress when I realized I wanted to try to get my work out there. So there was no source for that sort of feedback. And it isn’t just on a spelling, grammar, etc level where the feedback is valuable.

It’s a confidence thing, too. Entering competitions and entering stories for possible publication, I constantly found myself wondering – is this good enough? Even with stories I really like, I still get that tremor of fear. But, with places like FictionPress and in a seminar, even when the feedback contains points to improve on, people will still tell you the things they liked about the story.

So, knowing I needed some way of getting feedback on what I’ve been writing, I joined Scribophile. I’ve only been on there a week, giving critiques, and so far have two stories posted up. The first has  had some really good critiques on it, which will go a long way to polishing it and making it much better than it currently is. I’m still waiting to get a few more on the second, but the other writers on the site have shown themselves to be kind, welcoming and eager to help everyone. The forums are entertaining, and the site has some brilliant articles in regards to writing. Overall, so far I’m enjoying the experience, and it’s given me exactly what I need. A place to get good, honest feedback, to help me grow as a writer and to give me that little boost of confidence I’m going to need going forward.