While spending a detention one day with my English teacher after I cut class, we were conversing and he asked me: "Why do you write, Michael?"
The question was not difficult. I answered with something like, "Well, because it's enjoyable, and it's great to have reactions from people. And, you know, you get to create."
Mr. Towle sat back in his chair. He smiled, raising the corners of his mouth ever so slightly and mischievously. Then he asked, "But,what if you didn't have an audience for your writing? What if you knew nobody would ever read your books and stories?"
This question was, in fact, difficult. I shifted around in my chair and began a brief habit of looking at the clock every ten seconds. "Well," I replied...
Unfortunately, I cannot remember exactly what I said; then again, what Mr. Towle says here is not exactly what he said there. I seem to remember saying something like, "Well, I don't know."
And I still don't know. I think all writers write not only for themselves, but for their audiences and a need to create. Stephen King says that he writes horror because he knows what scares the willies out of him,and he enjoys knowing that he is scaring millions of people across the nation. But would he write if he had no audience? Would Anthony Burgess or Kurt Vonnegut write if they had no audience?
I will say that often it is hard for me to sit down and write, whether in front of terminal and keyboard or pad and pencil. Every writer has these problems once in a while, but you just have to force yourself to sit down and write.
I always listen to music while I write. I enjoy the music of different rock groups or singers, but the most provocative and inspirational music has proved to be Pink Floyd. Most of the band's music, however enjoyable or light, has a dark side to it (no pun intended). For me, that is good,probably not for people like Dave Barry.
When I write, I like to write fiction. When you write fiction, your mind can wander all around your brain, out your ear, hop across a powerline outside, and even go to the park for a stroll,there are no boundaries, no margins.
One thing that often perturbs me is that I have a loss of ideas. This is often solved by sitting down and just typing away,brainstorming. You can explore so many subjects and concepts that the wideness of ranges soon becomes unbearable and they must connect somewhere.
Sometimes I may become obsessed with an idea: a character, or a quotation. My last obsession stemmed from a character named Hymen Atomie (pronounced uh-TOME-ee) who, near the end of the story, rumbled across a road in his car and ran over my main character, Felinus Colby. Soon after that, I began having a lunatic character named Hymen Atomie pop up in many stories.
One of the biggest problems with my writing is that once I have an idea, I write a bit and then drop it. Often, however, these are half-baked ideas that only seem good when first I think of them. I simply leave them to be thought of by other writers.
If I ever become a writer, and become even a little famous, and I look back at this article, whether or not it is printed, I will say to myself that this sentence has way too many commas. But to summarize this essay, try not to have obsessions with your characters, it annoys people; try to start whatever you finish; write as an artist would paint; listen to music if it inspires you; and lastly, don't ever cut Mr. Towle. He takes it personally.n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.