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Why I Write Reason 16: I Want to Help the World

This is going to sound arrogant to some people, but I hope that you’ll allow me to explain. I write because I want to help the world. I know that I’m not curing cancer or bringing about lasting peace in the Middle East, so don’t go there. I know that what I do isn’t particularly earth-shaking or important work. Yet in small ways, I get to help individuals. What I put out into the world is useful to some people. It makes life a little bit easier for them. My writing adds some positive energy to an increasingly negative world.

Most of the things that I write are geared toward helping people tell stories. It doesn’t matter if they’re writing fiction or playing tabletop games. I focus on structure so that they can focus on the ideas and the emotions and the big picture concepts. Stories, after all, are the life’s blood of the world. They are a way to connect with other people. They help us to learn. Stories can sway elections. They have incredible power.

This is an aspect of why I write that I’m only beginning to explore. I don’t think I have embraced it before due to that fear of coming across as self-important or arrogant. It’s warped and distorted to feel that saying I want to help is a bad thing. Even when, in all humility, I acknowledge that my contributions are small.

Yet I also feel that it’s important to brag about my successes, to show people that things are possible. I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that your own success is guaranteed. I think it does help to know that people who have struggled, put in the work, and stuck with it can succeed. I keep writing to remind people of that. I think that it’s helpful to let people know that I still struggle. I still have to work hard, and every new book is still a huge risk. I could fall on my face at any moment. That grounding in reality is something a lot of people need to hear.

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Why I Write Reason 15: I Have Something to Say

According to various studies, about 23% of the world (and 43% of Americans) are on social media. We all seem to know someone who has, for better or worse, been “addicted” to the internet. They’re updating their status or posting things or answering comments. Sometimes people do have a point to make, or want to share information they feel others need to know. A lot of the time people post to not be forgotten. The unsubtle communication that social media offers works well for some things. I tend to be more gratuitously verbose. So I write books, and articles, and essays instead, because I have something to say.
 
A lot of my work is classified as non-fiction, of the instructional or self-help variety. Most people don’t see that type of writing as a form of self-expression, but it is. There is a point of view being stated. I have thoughts and opinions on these topics, even if my presentation isn’t emotional or dramatic. Books on writing reflect a world view, not just things that have works for me but the way I know things ought to be done. My tabletop roleplaying work definitely promotes a specific point of view.
 
When I write, I’m making a statement. I’m not starting a conversation or, more likely, an argument. This is why, for the most part, I now keep comments closed on blog posts and podcast episodes. I know that’s not proper social engagement, but we’ve lost sight of the purpose of interaction. When I read a book, I don’t get to engage with the author in real time as I’m reading it, or as they’re writing it. That’s proper. They need to be able to create in their own space with their own chosen influences. I need to be able to digest and interpret a work on my own terms, with my own lenses and filters and contexts. There’s a time and a place for having discussions. Those discussions should be organic, or at least organized, not forced. We’re made to feel comments are mandatory because something something web 2.0.
 
Writing in peace and solitude allows me to wrap my head around the ideas I’m writing about. I get to form actual opinions on things, because I’m taking the time. Writing does include reading. It’s doing research, and contemplating the things you have read. Writing things long-form means that I don’t have to dumb things down. There’s no need to remove necessary context for the sake of brevity or character limits. It allows me to present an idea, fully formed. Writing means saying everything I need to without interruption, derailment, or distortion.
 
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Why I Write Reason 14: I Have Health Issues

When I was 7 years old I had a paper route. It seems absurd today, when no one reads newspapers or allows their children to play outside. There are, after all, child molesters and serial killers. They’re hiding behind every tree and under every rock. As a teenage I did yard work, waited tables, and still delivered papers. Through college I had various retail jobs. I worked in warehouses unloading trucks, and washed dishes. Even as an adult I managed a bookstore for a couple of years, which kept me on my feet all day. The corporate world I chained me to a desk, and my overlords kept track of how many times I got up to go to the bathroom. I can’t do any of that any more. I don’t have the capability to either stand or sit for long stretches. My need to pee is not a clockwork function that happens at exactly 10:15 every morning and 2:45 each afternoon. It’s not possible for me to lift and carry things or engage in repetitive movements for 8 hours or more per day. So I write because I’m old and I have health issues.
 
Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against hard work or showing up when I need to. At the time that I’m writing this, I was in the chair pounding the keyboard until midnight last night. I was back in the chair at 7am. When there’s a deadline to meet I work until it’s done. I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. I shut down social media. I don’t leave the apartment other than to perform essential tasks like grocery shopping.
 
You have to be realistic. Keep your focus on managing the work rather than managing perceptions. The key benefit of working from home is that I don’t have people staring at me, judging how I’m using my time. There’s no ¿quien es mas macho? nonsense. Managing my health is part of managing the work. When I’m tired, I rest. When I have to go to the bathroom, I do, When I’m hungry, I eat. I do those things so that when I’m working, I can focus. I’m not counting minutes until I can relieve my bladder. I’m not listening to my stomach growl. I’m not churning out gibberish because I’m exhausted and need some caffeine or a little bit of sleep. Taking care of yourself should be part of the job.
 
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Why I Write Reason 13: I Love Reading

When I was a kid, the first thing I remember reading is a comic book. It was World’s Finest Comics issue 184, dated May 1969. I was 5 years old. I’m sure that I read other comics before that, but it’s the one that stuck in my mind. It was while reading that comic that I had the realization that people create things. An actual person drew the pictures. Someone made up the story and wrote the dialog. If people do that stuff, that meant that I could do it, too.
 
Some bibliophiles will say that they read because they love language, or well-told tales, or the elements of genre. A lot of people will tell you that they became writers, and love writing, for the same reasons that they love reading. For me, in an abstract way, reading connected me with people. Real people who were far away, that I would never meet. Folks who were different from me. People in countries I might never visit. People who were dead, but still able to connect with me. I wanted to be able to do that.
 
It was a mind-blowing concept to a 5 year old. If you stop to think about it, that’s a mind-blowing concept as an adult. I’m sitting here in my kitchen Jyväskylä, Finland, at 2:45 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, 22 April 2017, writing these words. You are wherever you are, whenever you are, reading them. Now we’re connected, fleetingly. Reading is an amazing superpower. It’s a form of magic. How could I not want to close the loop and write as well, reaching out to others the way so many writers have reached out to me?
You can read more about Why I Write here
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Why I Write Reason 12: I’m Lonely

Solitude can be a blessing or a curse. If you desire it, then it’s a wonderful thing. Getting away from people for a while and having some quiet time with your own thoughts is healing. When it’s not something you desire, it can be painful. My solution is to turn the former into the latter, and leverage solitude even when it’s unwelcome. Put another way, I write because I’m lonely.
 
This is adjacent to my thoughts on boredom; there is always something to do. They may not be the things that you want to do, but they still need doing. When you try to view things are resources, rather than limitations, then you can figure out how to work with them. If Katie’s away, or I’m cooped up in the house because of weather or health, I may rather be with people and being social. My emotional needs might not get met. But I need to recognize the gift of time that I’ve been given, and use it.
 
Writing might not meet my emotional needs of the moment, but it meets some emotional need. It’s like being hungry for a hamburger but all you have in the house is soup. The bottom line is that you’re still hungry, and you have soup, you can eat. It might not be satisfying, and not as good as the burger you crave, but it’s better than nothing. It will get you through.
 
I haven’t even talked about the content of what I write, only the activity. Loneliness, like any other emotion, can inform the writing. I can express my feelings through characters. The people that I want to hang out with, the things we’d do and talk about, can be fictionalized. Or I can write about anything at all, non-fiction, game design, technical writing, if only to fill the time and occupy my mind. Writing is a useful distraction, whether you’re using it to explore your emotions or avoid them.
You can read more about Why I Write here