I think that the reason I write fiction is that my dreams are much more interesting than my real life. I can't count the times that I've woke from a vivid dream, wrote down the bare essentials, and went back to sleep, only to write about it later. My crazy ancestor, Lord Byron, said it best, “If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
When I wrote my first story at age 8, I discovered that I really enjoyed it. After a while, it became so much a part of the way I think and what I do that I couldn't imagine not doing it. After my son was born, I took a seven-year break in order to give him the time and attention he needed, but once he started school, I went back to writing. I missed it when I wasn't doing it.
It's been said that writers write because they have stories they'd like to read but no one's written them yet. Ideas come up, and it's too tempting to run with them and see where they go, to be the first to read this new adventure that's pouring out of your fingertips and onto the page. That's true for me, I think. The idea of getting paid to do this didn't come up until well after writing was an established way of life for me.
Before most of those on Crimespace were born, I played a card game with my family called "Authors." Sort of like Fish, the idea was to draw and collect the matching cards of different famous authors--Poe, Whitman, Dickens, Wadsworth. I loved all the long hair, the white beards, and I soon announced I wanted to be an author, too. Been an obsession ever since. Go figure.
Back at the age of 24 in 1994, I started because I thought it would be a cool way to make a living. Didn't really work out. Now, I'll probably be writing till the day I die 'cause I got so many stories to tell.
I write fiction because I enjoy making up stories. I write crime fiction to make sense of disturbing things I see or hear. Even if the story I write is just as twisted as some of the things that come up on the news, even if I'm just making things up it helps me to see that there is always another side to why people do the things they do.
I started late. For many years I thought I wasn't good enough. That in spite of the fact that I had always read ravenously, liked making up stories myself, took advanced degrees in English literature, and enjoyed teaching literature.
After I started writing fiction (a very different thing from scholarly works), I went through the same misery as other writers: years of rejections. They seemed to prove that I couldn't write, but by then I was already hooked and continued. By the time I published my first story, three of the Akitada novels were written and not long after they sold. Yes, the novels that had been rejected are now in print and all got great reviews.
These days, I know that I can tell a good story, but I'm still working at it, never quite satisfied. And I like that.
I really envied book writers, you know----real authors. I graduated from MSU with a minor in journalism, exposes' got hot---remember WaterGate? But, I have always been a voracious reader. Finally, much later in life than I want to admit, I can afford to write fiction.
I left the newspaper in 91'---went freelance, and never regretted a day.
Some people here use the word "compulsion," as in "no choice." I agree with that. Whatever makes us who we are, with this enormous sensitivity to words and visual ideas, is a drive that comes early and hard even when not activated until later in life. Other than bare literacy it is unrelated to education. I think that the writing mind may be related to isolation at a key age in childhood development. So many writers were ill or had some other limiting factor that caused them to be alone too much and tell themselves stories as a form of company. Some of us liked the worlds we created.
I grew up in a reading family. We had stories read to us before we could read, we got books as gifts, we gave books for gifts. To this day, the aroma of the stacks is as enticing as fresh baked bread and as essential to my diet. I have written stories since I could write. I still love to write letters and thankfully have a handful of friends and family members who do as well. If I never get more than my poems and the few pieces of flash fiction published, I'll be disappointed, but I won't quit. If I did, I'd be in the loony bin next to Lord B.
I'm a lawyer. I write fiction because it's a perfect counterbalance to the practice of law.
Lawyers are constrained by facts--facts that are immutable. I start a case, and the facts have already been established. This is often confounding. There might be a deserving client and a meritorious case--if only the facts weren't so....factual. (You know: Why'd he have to write that particular email? Now I have to explain that away.)
Writing fiction, I--and only I--control the facts. I make stuff up. And if travel down a particular road and don't like the way things turn out, I get to go back and change the facts.
So, writing fiction is almost like a pressure release valve. (And when I'm in court and I don't like a ruling the judge just made, I can sit back and enjoy conjuring up just what might happen to His (or Her) Honor if this were one of my stories....)