The writing life

When you’re a writer, people seem to feel you must be bohemian enough to accept them asking you anything. Or maybe people are just rude.

I prefer to think the former.iStock_000014549265Small

Regardless, I’ve had many people ask me why I write. They look at me, curiously, wondering what the payoff is. Sometimes, the tone is just curious. Other times, it is akin to the tone one takes when one asks a stranger: “Do you realize your hair is on fire?” It is as if they hope to wake me up to a fate I must surely be unaware of—the fate of writers, doomed to live lonely with lots of cats, eating a mainstay diet of canned soup and oyster crackers.

Have I mentioned I have a vivid imagination? That probably goes without saying.

I am honest about the practical wishes I have. To be paid to blog? Heaven. To get a book contract? A notch above Heaven. To be awarded a regular column? Nah. Forget it. That doesn’t happen to anyone but the very lucky anymore. But a dream of mine? Sure. Ever since Dick Van Patten on “Eight is Enough”, I’ve longed for the columnist’s mouthpiece, lifestyle and accoutrements. Don’t ask me why such an uninspiring show gave me inspiration—but it did. I think it’s the universe’s way of having a laugh at my expense.

Most of us do not write for practical reasons. Rarely does writing put food on the table, pay school tuition, fund family vacations. At least, not the kind of writing most columnists do.

We write because we’re writers.

I don’t say this while donning a black beret, joining the writers’ union and smoking French cigarettes.

I say it in the humblest, most respectful way possible. As I type this at midnight on a night I’ve worked my “real” job all day and am dog tired. But my mind won’t let me go to sleep with this post rattling around in my head. If you’re a writer, you understand this insanity.

I don’t know why I’m a writer. Don’t know why my written voice is many times wiser than my spoken voice. More eloquent. More thoughtful. More inspired.

But it is.

When I write, I can hear the words coming. And their rhythm.

In a recent interview, Pharrell said when he hears music, he sees colors. And so do many musicians. He literally sees the music in another medium.

My friend thought that odd. Not me. I totally get it.

chapter 1When I write, I hear the rhythm of the words in my head. Words not in my everyday vocabulary appear as if of their own volition, pulled from the deep recesses of God knows where.

The writing comes through me. It’s not necessarily of me.

Recently, many bloggers have been asked to describe their writing process in a blog entry.


Let me say it again. ZZZZ.

Quite frankly, I could care less what someone else’s process is. I don’t care how Elizabeth Gilbert or Anne Lamott get to a final destination. I’ll never use their process anyway. You know why? Because it’s THEIRS.

But I certainly appreciate their finished product.

So I’ll spare you the details on how I write what I write. Just know that when I write, some days I feel inspired. The words come so fast I can barely get them on the screen before they disappear from my mind.

Other days, I struggle. When I can’t write about things that are too private or would hurt my kids or someone I love—and there’s nothing but dirty dishes or laundry or a work presentation awaiting me—those are the days I scramble.

But the important thing is, I bring myself—heart, mind, soul and body—to the table. I show up. I ask to be inspired. I ask to hit a nerve or strike a chord with the people who read my writing.

If intention matters, I’m all in.

I do not ask my dentist why he practices dentistry. My real estate agent why she sells homes. I’m guessing it’s because they either need to make a living or they love what they do.

Jacque Cousteau explored the seas because he loved them. Georgia O’Keefe painted to express things. I write, in much humbler fashion, because I’m a writer. It’s one of the few unequivocal things I know. It’s what I’m supposed to do while I’m here.

Sometimes, that’s the simple, necessary answer.

And it is enough.




21 Comments Add yours

  1. Kay – loved the part about you not being able to sleep because of this post rattling around inside your head. That has been my week – lying awake for hours rearranging words in my head like puzzle pieces. Still, it has taken me 41 years to even acknowledge to myself that I am a writer. Thank you, again, for your words that for me always ring so true.

  2. Elizabeth Dudak says:

    My friend, my dear knows-my-soul friend, sent me this post. My writer’s response? The writer that is supposed to know how to formulate words into meaningful sentences response? OMG, like the kids say, or do they still say it? Your post was, well, me. I, too, since the reading of Mike Royko (a Chicago columnist) wanted to be a columnist. I have a day job and loose sleep because words need to be written. I understand the seeing color in music. I need to write and not in a pompous, arrogant way. I get all of what you said so eloquently. Beautiful post. Absolutely beautiful. Keep on keeping on sister. Keep on keeping on.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. My mother was a huge Royko fan, so I heard his words quoted aloud many a day. It’s so nice to hear from a kindred spirit! Makes up for all of those who look at you blankly when you put it out there:). I hope you’re still writing. And for my part, I will keep on keeping on . . .

  3. As a kid, I regularly read Herb Caen’s column in the SF Chronicle (yes, I was an odd kid) and I think his ramblings–beautiful, insightful, humorous ramblings–planted the seed that only truly sprouted some 30 years later when I turned my hand to “serious” writing. As you, I find the “share your method” topic a snoozer, but find the “why I write” topic (and it’s backstory) fascinating. Thx!

  4. jennyflem says:

    Perfect! This is exactly the feeling.

  5. Oh yes. Yes to just about all of that! Recently I was interviewed on the radio, and in the pre-show briefing, the presenter said she wanted me to explain how I take my raw material and turn it into a blog post. I told her I couldn’t do that; I couldn’t explain it in a way that anyone would understand. I just do it. It’s almost instinctive, it just comes out somehow. Oh, there’s a bit of reworking here and there but “explaining” the process of writing is not possible for me! She didn’t seem to understand but I held my ground and we discussed other things about writing! I loved this post….it says it all!

    1. candidkay says:

      I completely understand that answer:). I’ve never understood writers who use an outline. I think most creative types connect the dots or piece a puzzle together in their head, in a way that makes no logical sense. But when it works, it’s pure beauty–in a way an outlined piece could never be.

  6. Amy says:

    I think you’d be a terrific columnist, too, K.! As it is, we’re fortunate that you’re writing here on candidkay. Thank you for all you share. xox

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    You would make a perfect columnist Kay – excellent bite-size posts that make perfect sense. Plus you probably have cats that sit on your keyboard 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Roy! Except no cats:). One very large dog who bats my keyboard away when she feels ignored.

  8. “It’s what I’m supposed to do while I’m here.”
    They says it all. I am inspired.
    The chord has been struck.

  9. lucinda408 says:

    I especially like your statement : “I could care less what someone else’s process is. I don’t care how Elizabeth Gilbert or Anne Lamott get to a final destination. I’ll never use their process anyway. You know why? Because it’s THEIRS”

  10. Maria Mooshil says:

    Can very much relate to the part about being able to write more eloquently than I speak! And how you need to write it down because it’s all tumbling around in your head and you can barely put it down before it blows on down the road! And most especially the part about having difficulty writing when the words might be hurtful to or somehow reflect unflatteringly on people we know and love. That’s the part about fearlessness in writing that a lot of folks, both readers and writers, just don’t get. You seem to be able to conquer that fear, Kristine. Keep it up!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Maria. Means a lot coming from you. The fearlessness is tough, isn’t it? So much that would resonate as truly real remains unwritten because it’s so raw. And it’s instantly recognized as “real” when it’s put out there.

  11. Jan Wilberg says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Process? What process? It just happens if you don’t run away from it. You describe it perfectly.

  12. SalvaVenia says:

    Humble and prudent words.

  13. markbialczak says:

    You’re on to something, Kay. I feel like my best writing appears when the words are coming so fast my fingers can hardly keep up with what’s shooting out of my brain. Great post, again, my writer friend.

  14. Fantastic. My favorite post of yours. #identified

  15. You describe this so well Kay, I know that feeling of words coming in their own rhythm that you wouldn’t normally speak in your everyday life.

  16. suemclaren24 says:

    As usual, right on the mark. The words “come”, and they insist on being brought to paper. I love that. When the words aren’t coming, I don’t write. Some professionals would say you have to be disciplined about writing: do it even when you don’t feel like it. But if I do it under those conditions, not only is it hard working and re-working for something satisfactory, it comes out stilted, disingenuous. So I stick to my own method, as you do yours. Well done.

    1. candidkay says:

      You hit it on the head. When I try to force it, I am usually sorely disappointed. I have learned not to piss of my muses:). When they’re not around, nothing happens.

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