Why I Wrote THE OTHER NORMALS -- Wait a Minute, Why Do I Write Anything?!
Occasionally a writing prompt stops you in your tracks. Example: Write about why you wrote your new book The Other Normals:
That seems like a small part of some bigger questions. Such as:
- Why do I ever write ANYTHING?
- Why does ANYONE ever write anything?
- Are there some books that are written for better reasons than others?
It doesn't help that one of the greatest essays about writing is George Orwell's "Why I Write" from 1946. So if I were to do a guest blog called "Why I Write," I would be plagiarizing him. I guess I could call the entry "Why I Don't Not Write," but Orwell would call that political doublespeak. In any case, the answer is:
I'm a mimic.
I admit it. All artists are -- or at least, they start out that way. And I don't think working artists ever lose it.
Let's take the following as a definition for art:
Art is that which exists only for itself.
Make sense? After all, when you appreciate art, you're appreciating something outside of time and purpose. You don't need art. You don't need it to eat, drink, breathe. But once you see it, it tells you that there's more to life than those things.
Whenever I experienced this transformative, time-stopping power, even as a young boy, I wanted to imitate it. I wanted to make it myself. When I was nine, I played Super Mario Brothers a lot --
-- and that inspired to me to try and design a video game on graph paper.
Guess what? The game I designed was very similar to Super Mario Brothers. In fact, it was exactly the same, but the main character wasn't Mario, he was a warrior from the desert named "Hadron." The game was called Desert Jumper, and it never got made -- because I didn't know how to program a computer.
But then I discovered something in school, when we had a special class called "Writers' Workshop" for two weeks.
Writing was the art form I could imitate with the least amount of trouble.
Think about it: to write, you don't need to program a computer. All you need is paper and pen! So...
- In 5th grade, I read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and tried to write a humorous sci-fi book of my own. (It's long gone; the only thing I remember was an alien character named "V'leek Jaja".)
- In 8th grade, I read all the Macworld magazines I could and started an AOL-only Mac newsletter called "AppleLine Monthly".
- In 10th grade, I read New York Press and tried to write my own confessional essays like the alternative newspaper columnists of the time... and that stuck and I had a career!
So for me, writing is pure piracy and cannibalism. But one work that I never got to imitate, even after a decade in young-adult literature, was this one:
I loved Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, and I always wanted to write a book with a fantasy world in it. So with The Other Normals, I scratched another imitative itch and tried to put my own spin on it. That's all we can expect of one another, isn't it?
I suppose it would be more epic if I said I wrote the book to make the world a better place, or to free my imprisoned relative. But maybe you can take something away from my pedestrian motivations. If I can be a professional writer just by reading books and then trying to do them one better, I can't fault you for doing the same, dear reader, and I'm happy to see what you come up with.