Thursday, December 3

Why I write

I submitted a short story of mine to a short story contest last week. I've done it a handful of times over the years, but never before with a reading fee. I'll let you know how it goes. Allow me to say now, though, that I have high hopes. It's the first time the contest has been held, the prize purse is only $100 and the original deadline was pushed back, all of which suggests that the pool of entries will be less than deep. My chances only increase.

It's odd, then, to only find myself asking now why I write.

This question became particularly acute when I was running through NewPages' list of magazines accepting unsolicited submissions. Of course I had never flipped through any of them before. I was lucky if I had even heard of them. Yet I was still spending the better portion of my day off checking out their websites for submission guidelines. Really, what's the point of publishing a story if it's only going to a journal you've never read yourself? Because at that point it begins to seem an awful lot like you are just looking for the money. Which is fine when you need to survive, less fine in all other cases. Like mine.

I'd rather not think such things about my writings, so I think further. There is a quote by Flannery O'Connor that I found on the GlimmerTrain Press site. It goes along the lines of “I write to discover what I know.” I feel an affinity with that. That's pretty good.

I keep a journal to record what happened and what I thought. I write emails to stay in touch with friends and family. I keep this blog to find answers to questions. I write stories for the same reason, but the answers I'm looking for in them are to questions too personal to deal with straight up on Spice of Life. Sometimes I need proxies for myself and my friends as I consider what could have been or what should be.

I first wanted to be a writer sometime after archaeologist and major league baseball pitcher. That would place it around third or fourth grade. After a few years that urge faded in favor of video game designer and reporter, but it's come back strong lately, though in a different way. I'm not interested in writing fiction full time, if that were ever even possible. Since working at House of Charity and coming to Nakuru, it has become more than clear that there is real work that needs to be done to meet human suffering. It's work that's more important than writing, but it doesn't mean I can't do the latter. I still need to write to find answers.

Being published, winning contests, making a little money through my writing would be cool. It's pretty solid proof that someone thought my words and phrases were interesting and worthwhile, but and I hope never to forget this, it's only secondary to the answers I can find.

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