copyright Aaron Paul Lazar 2010
What motivates you to write?
Is it a yearning to connect with humankind? To share your cherished visions with readers? To breach that lonely cold gap stretching between souls? To reach into someone’s heart, and really, truly make a difference?
Or do you simply write for yourself? Do you need to control a parallel universe that performs at your command, whose heroes are vivid and alive in your brain, and whose villains bow to your will? Is your own life so out of control that this writing thing, this whirling, compelling, demanding art form does wonders as a coping strategy?
Maybe you don’t care if your books ever get published; you just need to satisfy that inner drive to write. It itches until you scratch it, lures you like a lover, and enslaves you like a drug. And it’s very unforgiving. If you don’t get your daily fix, you get grumpy. Supremely grumpy.
Some write to purge demons from a childhood trauma, or to escape painful reality. Others create romantic relationships that fill emptiness in their own life, or invent critters to help heal the ache after losing a beloved pet. Some imagine bizarre aliens in a world so unlike ours that tantalizing characters and stories are born into new galaxies. And there are those who create scenes with characters strangely like their dear departed grandparents.
Writing can be comforting, thrilling, romantic, and scary.
But under no circumstances should you write simply to sell a book. That kind of motivation will only disappoint you, and writing for money is often a surefire way to guarantee disappointment. Instead, write from your heart. Write to soothe your spirit. Write to instill order in a chaotic world. Write to entertain, to create twisted plots that electrify or shock. But don’t write just to sell. Because in the end, you may be selling your writer’s soul.
Let’s say you’ve written your heart out. You’ve pumped out a few great books. Suddenly you go dry. What motivates you now?
Look around you. The world is crammed with topics. Watch your favorite movies. Dissect them, list the ideas that stir your imagination, and make an inventory of your favorite themes. Is it unrequited love? Time travel? Gentle giants falsely accused? Delicious twists that shock and surprise? Spunky lady cops who save the day? Heroic animals? Fantastical fairies? Gritty city secrets?
Keep your ears open. Listen to news stories. The often unfathomable, sometimes horrific accounts will stir your creative juices. Imagine a twist on them. Then twist it again and change its literary color or scent. Don’t worry if it’s been done before. Just put your mark on it and write it with passion.
Tune in to real life dramas at work, church, or school. Think about your friend whose wife died from a rare complication of a cardiac virus, your cousin who suffers from depression, your daughter whose college boyfriend from Albania is suddenly deported. Real life is fertile and rich. It’s full of angst, splendor, terror, and adventure. It offers a mosaic of ideas, and waits for you to pluck your new favorites to mix and match into a dynamic storyline.
Last of all: read, particularly from your genre. Read incessantly. Read in the grocery store line. Read at the doctors. Read at the Laundromat. Read while you wait for the kids after soccer practice. Read before you go to sleep at night. It’s not only the best way to charge up your imagination. Sitting at the virtual feet of the masters of the craft is the best way to learn to write.
Life is full of material. Sometimes the hardest part is choosing your themes. Pick a few, and toss them around to coat them with new variations. Make your time traveler a dog, instead of a boy. Put an alien in your tear jerker romance. Create cute little cockroaches instead of bunnies in your children’s book. Or stick to cliché themes, but shake your own writer’s salt on it. Mix up your hat full of ideas and see what falls out.
It’s all up to you. Now go get ‘em.
Aaron Paul Lazar
DOUBLE FORTE' (2004)
TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (2007)
HEALEY'S CAVE (2010)
ONE POTATO, BLUE POTATO (2011)
FOR KEEPS (2012)
Preditors&Editors Top 10 Finalist * Yolanda Renee's Top Ten Books 2008 * MYSHELF Top Ten Reads 2008 * Writers' Digest Top 101 Website Award 2009 & 2010