Monday, September 12, 2016

The Magic Of Writing With No Expectations

I've written under many circumstances. When I was aspiring to be published traditionally, I would write in hopes that I could fit a certain market and that shaped how I wrote books. When I finally sold I wrote in hopes that I could STAY in said market. When I realized I wouldn't ever really fit...I began rebelliously writing whatever the hell I wanted. Sometimes people would sell books like that, I was told. It hasn't happened to me yet. I'm still "outside" as much as ever.

And long ago, I used to write with truly zero expectations on me, imposed by myself or others. This, I think, is a magical thing. Truly magical. If you write you know what I'm talking about.

When I was a teen, I would go down to my quiet computer room in the basement. My dad had gifted me the old Apple MacIntosh. I had it ALL to myself! It didn't have much on it, but it did have a word processor and that's all I needed. Turning on my boom box, I would sit down there and melt into the worlds in my head. I would spend hours down there, dreaming up stories and feeling like everything I came up with was amazing. It was the best.

It didn't last.

A little criticism fueled my self-doubt and soon I stopped writing stories. The MacIntosh died. I lost everything I hadn't printed—which is a bit of a relief since there was A LOT of bad poetry on there.

I didn't feel that magic again for about five years. I finished high school and went to college, having tucked my dream of authorhood deep down where I hoped it wouldn't bother me. But, despite my fears and determination to have a rational career, it came back. And I started writing, and the magic was waiting there for me as I let myself explore and be imaginative.

For two years I played, not daring to attempt or think of publication. Mostly I was afraid of failure, but I think part of me also knew that things would change when I decided to try for traditional publication. Things wouldn't be quite the same.

I was right. It's hard to hold on to that magic once you make the decision to publish. Some writers are better at it than others. But slowly, it began to slip away from me. With each attempt to publish and then STAY published...that magic, that creativity, that all began to slip away.

I lost it a few times. Without that magic, I wanted to give up. Writing wasn't worth it without that joy. Every now and then, as I tired to make new stories I would feel that fleeting spec of magic still in me, but by then I was too afraid to let more in. Because magic can be painful, too. You can love things so much that the impending disappointment aches before it has even happened. And it does happen.

Perhaps I'm rambling, but I suppose I want to say: Hold on to the magic of writing.

It's not silly. It's not superfluous. It's essential.

Right now, I happen to be in an interesting new and yet familiar place—I have zero expectations on me as a writer. It's liberating and strange. It feels like both a failure and a mercy. Because I am finding magic again. And I am exploring worlds in my head that are just for me. I am writing what I want with no mind for what other people like. I'm letting this world and these characters surround me, instead of pushing them back in fear that I won't be able to share them. I'm opening up again—opening up to myself—after years of being scared of how all my books would fail.

The magic is here. In this place where I've ended up. And I missed it so very much.


  1. Yes yes yes yes yes yes to everything in this post.

    I miss being the little girl entertaining herself on the old slow desktop computer.

    I'm glad you're finding your way back to her.

  2. This is so true. I recently found some of my old stuff, stuff written before I thought I'd ever be an "author" because I assumed it would always be a hobby and never a career. I was surprised how much more feeling was in that writing than in some of the stuff I've written with a readership in mind. As if I hold myself back more now than I used to. Maybe some day I'll be able to write like I used to.

  3. I miss the days when I did that kind of writing, free to break all the rules, full of mischief and joy. I did have a dull writing job but this was stuff I did for my own amusement. It was liberating.

  4. Write whatever you want. Don't listen to what other people say. Be happy. That is the recipe for happiness.

  5. I'm so glad you are finding magic again! It's been my experience too that certain expectations can injure our writing, and worse, ourselves. It's so freeing to lay them aside and just savor the gift of creativity.