Writing Happy

At some point after I turned 50, I started to ask myself who I would be if I didn’t write. I quickly decided that I’d always write. I love blogging and reviewing books and occassional assignments like the BBC thing are fun. But what if I gave up writing novels? How would I structure my days, what would I obsess about, who would I be in the world?

My questions came about naturally. Combine my age (53) with the book-length manuscripts (12)  I’ve completed over 30 years. Add the fact that only one of those is published, and that’s because I had it privately printed. The result is a pretty clear case of “Why the hell don’t I give up already?”

But I don’t want to give up, and before yesterday I could not figure out why. Was I just stubborn? Stuck in unhealthy old patterns? It bothered me. How much productivity in other areas of my life had I missed out on because I’d been so single-mindedly plotting novels all these years? Wasn’t it time, before I died, to put my energy in other places, places that might make a real difference to my life?

I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers in part because I wanted to find proof that I should give up this mad preoccupation or else find the secret to fine-tuning my lack into success. Gladwell makes a compelling case for personal history, plus the time and place one is born into, being as much a part of success as luck, talent, and intelligence. He proved beyond a doubt, to me at least, that a unique mix of these many factors go into any major success story.

Perhaps the stars hadn’t quite aligned for me. Perhaps it was not my fate to be a published novelist. 

Notice I say “perhaps.” That’s because I’m not dead yet, and after yesterday it is finally clear to me that I’ll be plotting a novel with my last breath. So that means anything, even a later-in-life career as a novelist, can still happen.

So how did I banish the doubts that have been chasing me for a few years now? I read a timely post by Crawford Kilian eloquently admonishing writers that “Every story you write is first of all a dialogue with yourself, and only after is it a dialogue with your readers. So keep talking with yourself, listen to what your inner writer wants to tell you…”

My inner writer says writing novels makes her happy.


  1. I ask myself the same — why do I want to write? Am I just a “wanna-be writer” dreaming and fantasizing. I never thought I’d be interested in writing when I was little, let alone writing novels or poems. I think I write because of two reasons — one, I’m interested in characters, especially mythical or fictional ones that are out of this world such as wizards and ancient warriors. Two, because writing somehow, for some reason, keeps me sane 🙂

    As for you, I am pretty sure if you had not written or quit, you’d be a miserable person. There’s great unpublished work out there, as there are lousy published work, and yours is the unpublished…so far.

    I like the way Crawford Killan puts it — “every story is a dialogue with yourself…so keep talking to yourself.”


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