I was having dinner and drinks the other night with friends from my hockey group. Now, normally the games we play consist of just our core group: a bunch of (mostly drunk) middle aged guys who happen to be pretty good at the sport. The night in question, however, was our annual Friends & Family Night. We had wives and girlfriends, kids…there was even a hedgehog, for fuck’s sake!
Afterwards we went out. Small talk and chatting, laughing and mocking each other, annoying the shit out of everyone else in the restaurant. You know…normal life. One of my buddies mentioned that his son was doing a project for school, and wanted to ask me about writing – which, I have to admit, would probably get him a better grade than asking me about breweries…
So this kid, who is maybe fourteen or fifteen, starts asking his questions and I start answering. Some of them I even answer honestly, rather than blow my usual smokescreen. Then he gets to the hardest question of the lot….why do I write?
Let’s be honest, I can pull a dozen quotes from different writers on that topic. I can use canned answers that I’ve given before. I can sweep the question away with a hundred platitudes.
Here I am, at a table with friends of mine who fit the dictionary definition of “tough”, who all played sports at the highest levels (college, pro, etc…). All have the same sarcastic, caustic, biting wit that makes a locker room seem hostile and cruel to anyone who doesn’t actually play the game (yes, I’m just as bad), and all know me all too well.
The folks around me actually turn and look, start listening. Shit. I really need to make up something funny and urbane, something to make myself look like the second coming of Hemingway…or at least Spillane.
I actually thought about it. I actually made an effort to answer honestly.
I had also had a couple of beers.
Why do I write?
More importantly, why can I not stop? I have tried, believe it or not. And each time I’ve tried, I’ve failed.
I’ve talked around the edges of it in a couple of posts here. I’ve hinted around the reality with friends and family. But I’ve never actually come out and said it:
It’s the only time I’m happy.
For all the shit-money – for all the ups and downs, for all the bullshit – the only time I am really, legitimately happy is when I’m writing a story. All the planning and background stuff, all the editing and revision, those are just sideshows.
It’s the actual writing.
It’s the stories. More than that, it’s the characters. It is putting down for someone else all the emotion and imagery that is so real in my own mind.
So that was my answer, to him as much to myself: I write because that’s who I am.