Friday, September 12, 2008

Why, indeed, do we write?

Like Joyce, I have often been asked why I write. The first time was at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. A man stopped by the Sisters in Crime booth, where I was signing, or more acurately, hoping to sign, and stared at me. "Why do you like to do this?" he said. I couldn't think of a thing to say, a very unusual event for me. Why indeed? Partly because of love of story. Partly because I love to read. And mostly, because once I started, I found I just couldn't stop. I had no idea there were all those stories, all those characters inside me, waiting for me to finally get around to letting them out, but there they were and I'm hooked. At first its just fun. Look! I wrote a story. Then you read it, and think, well---. So you write it again, and again, and pretty soon you get up enough courage to let someone else read it. All they have to say is "hey, that's pretty good," and you are lost. At least, that's how it worked for me. I had read all my life, avidly read, panic set in if I didn't have at least one unread book waiting for me on my bedside table. But I never thought I could be a writer. They were lofty people, locked away in garrets somewhere, typing night and day, turning out all of those wonderful stories the rest of us waited impatiently to snatch up. No, I wasn't that talented, that imaginative, that talented. So when I wrote my first short piece, and when it sold to Disney's Family Fun, I was shocked, amazed, and a little scared. I was a writer. When had the muse struck? I didn't remember the lightening bolt, just the hard work once I decided I was going to get that article right. The starting at the page,the reconstruction of sentences, the joy when it finally felt right. And it still feels right. I am on my final-I hope-rewrite of my fourth book and am still thrilled when a difficult sentence, or page, or chapter finally comes right. The deep satisfaction that I get when a character comes alive. Of course, having your editor tell you she/he likes it doesn't hurt either. But I have given up on the muse. It's much to unreliable. I write every day, and every day try to make what I am doing better, try to stretch a little more. I want each of my books and short stories to be better than the last one, and hope that I am succeedin. So, go crank up that computer, stare at that screen and don't get up until you have written something. Don't worry if it stinks. That's what the delete button is for. And remember, tomorrow is another day. Didn't someone else say that? Happy writting everyone. Kathleen Delaney And Murder For Dessert

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