When I was very young, I thought I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t really know what that meant. I just loved how books can take you someplace that doesn’t exist and let you experience events through someone else’s eyes. I wanted to be the one that made the worlds that people get lost in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. I am not a writer. My mother thinks that I am, several teachers over the years thought that I was, but it’s not true. I have tried to be a number of times over the years and just couldn’t do it.
Stephen King once wrote:
“I think novelists come in two types, […] Those who are bound for the more literary or “serious” side of the job examine every possible subject in light of this question: What would writing this sort of story mean to me? Those whose destiny […] is to include the writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would writing this sort of story mean to others? The “serious” novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the “popular” novelist is looking for an audience. Both kinds of writer are equally selfish. I’ve known a good many, and will set my watch and warrant upon it.”
I’m not sure that writers can be broken so neatly into those two groups. I believe that each author has -must have- both of those voices inside them. While it may be true that some authors are purely in it for an audience, there must be (or have been at one some point) a desire to write purely for themselves. Even if the story was created just to see if they could do it, there was still something of their self that wanted to see their words make it to the page. Similarly, the more serious author may be writing for him/her self, but they also want an audience. If they didn’t, why put the words to paper when they could have just as easily strung the the story together in their mind alone?
I have never given much thought to what kind of writer I wanted to be, mostly because I don’t think I am (or ever will be) a writer. A writer is someone who is able to sit down and invent a character, their story, and their world from nothing. They can pull out of thin air some of the most fantastic things you will ever see. I can’t do anything like that. Sometimes a character will jump into my head and I want to immerse myself in their world just like I did when I was young. I can see it all so clearly in my mind that it often pains me that I can’t bring the story to life in the way that a writer could. The best that I can do is take the beautiful imagery and vivid characters and paraphrase them; like I’m taking sloppy notes while I’m watching the story unfold and I just can’t describe them properly.
There must be at least one more type of author: the one who writes for the characters. That is why I
attempt to write. The characters and stories are stuck in my head as if frozen in time. If I don’t write them, they will never have existed at all. The images sit paused like a single photograph cropped from the reel of a movie, I have to hit the play button to let the characters live. And while I may not be able to paint the characters or worlds as beautifully as I can see them in my mind, the characters still get to see and live the stories in the vivid and beautiful detail that my words so miserably fail to capture.
I don’t write the characters or their stories, I get to see them play out just like you do -only they are so much more beautiful in my mind. And while I can’t say that I don’t desire an audience, and I can’t say that I don’t get a certain satisfaction when a story finally makes its way to the page (as horribly butchered as my description have made it), I can most certainly say that my primary goal is to let the characters in my mind live their lives. It seems the least I can do for them in return for all the enjoyment they have given me over the years.