Regular Writers & Artists blogger Lia Louis on the sheer joy of writing for no one else but yourself.
I can't remember the exact time that I started to write. I know I was young, I know it was before we had a computer in the house, and I know that as often as I wrote stories about magic trees and wizardy caretakers, I wrote long, thoughtful rambles about life, space, and sometimes, the cute boy in the house opposite who I thought may have smiled – or perhaps, Dear Diary, it was wind – at me. I wrote when I had everything and nothing to say, and needed to make sense of things. I wrote because it helped me think and stopped me thinking all at the same time. I wrote because I couldn’t find the right words to say out loud, and I wrote because I had thoughts, fears and secrets but no person I trusted enough to keep them. I wrote because it grounded me, and also sent me up, up and far, far away. I wrote because it was an antidote to an awful day, and also, sometimes, the celebration of a great one. It was the strong hand reaching down into the deep, dark hole. An escape. A tonic. A therapy.
Often, in the whirlwind of life, I lose sight of those very things. It’s not that I forget. They’re of course, always there. It’s just that I don’t always see them because my eyes are just too busy being fixed on the flag on top of the mountain; mountains in the shape of my daily word count goal, that novel, that chapter, that poem or project; that competition closing date, that deadline, or goddamn plot hole that keeps sucking me deep within it where all the ladders out of it are made of tagliatelle. And while I need these things to keep focused on my path to being a published writer, I forget that sometimes, writing can be, and should be, for me. I can write without a single reason. I can write without a single goal. I can write something – anything – that has absolutely no legs to be any sort of success or project because well... it’ll make me happy. Yep. Simply, just that. It’ll make me happy. It’ll pull me out of a dark place. It’ll uplift me. It’ll chase away the demons. For when I need it to be, writing can be nothing but my therapy. A slice of pure, concentrated, no-strings happiness.
It was a fortnight ago, at 2am, during a particularly horrible time, that I was reminded of this. I was wide awake, the world in which I was living felt like a constantly-shaking snow globe, and my head felt fit to burst with thoughts and concerns. And instead of using that time to tap away, as I usually would, trying to figure out a way to better that sagging part of my novel or chipping away at my word count, I opened a new word document and I just wrote. I wrote. Without really thinking. I wrote all the thoughts out of my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote; a journal entry, then a strange scene of a novel that never existed (and probably never will), and a conversation between three characters I had no idea even lived inside my subconscious. Two whole pages that in just an hour, swamped me with relief and relieved the pressure from my brain like a pin in a balloon. And all I could think was “Why don’t I do this more often? Why don’t I allow myself to take a impromptu, gorgeous little detour on my way to the mountain?”
We know the world needs writers to write, because the world needs words for there to be books to read and galaxies to explore and moments to escape into. Readers need them, agents need them, publishers need them, and yes, as a writer who wants to be published, you have to find the time to get the words down and keep your eye on the mountain. But sometimes, it's good to take a diversion along the way. We need to write for ourselves, and for the reasons we fell in love with writing in the first place. We don’t have to write to chase a dream, to hit a goal, to compete. We can write just because. Because nothing. Because anything. Because it’s wonderful therapy, and such an effective tonic. Because as writers, we are lucky that when things are bleak, we can step into somewhere where the skies are pink and people smile all the time and the air always smells of the sea, of lavender fields, of bacon cheeseburgers.
If you’re like me, you will probably always be striving towards a mountain in some shape or form, and as a reader, I am so very glad of that. But I hope this post serves as a reminder – and permission, if you feel you need it (and you don’t, by the way) – to write for nothing other than the love of it and for how it makes you feel. Let writing be your rescue, and let it be your escape. Your own little wardrobe to Narnia when without moving a foot, you need to get away.
Lia is a busy mum of three and currently in the process of writing her second novel. She is the winner of the 2015 ELLE Magazine writing competition and is also studying for a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. Lia lives at home in Hertfordshire, with her boyfriend, four year old, baby twins, and stacks of clothes and books. Find her on Twitter here