Guest Posts

Why Do I Write? A Guest Post By Mark Paxson

This week’s guest post is from our friend Mark Paxson! So, enough of me, here is Mark!

Mark- I asked Papi if he had any ideas for what my guest post should be about. “Anything publishing or literary related? You can go funny or serious.” That was his response. Thanks for the help, Papi. 

It’s this weird dynamic, writing a guest post for somebody else’s blog. I write for my own blog all the time. Anybody who has followed it for the past two years pretty much knows about 98.6% of what there is to know about me. My life, my writing. Everything. But to write for somebody else’s blog means I need to be extra witty. I must write something that is fascinating on a scale unseen on my own blog. The pressure is tremendous. What ground-breaking words can I share that will cause just one reader to stand up and say “By jove, he’s got it!”

Here’s another factor to the dynamic. I’d like to break new ground with this guest post on The Literary Syndicate. My blogging frequency has taken a nose dive lately because I feel like I’m patrolling the same beat over and over again.

So, that’s the challenge. Witty. Fascinating. Ground-breaking. I’ve got this. I think, but my palms are sweating from the pressure of it all.

Why do I write? Nope. Can’t go there. I’ve written a blog post, or two, about that. Take two.

Why do I write? Hmmm. That’s weird. That question keeps popping into my head. So, let me tell you a little story.

My father wrote. He published slightly more than a handful of books on such subjects as business writing, grammar, and punctuation. He also wrote a number of novels, none of which were published. So, there’s a little bit of a genetic thing going on. Maybe. 

My 18-year-old son hates to write. I did too, back then. I’m not one of those people who has written since the age of four, filling journals with their thoughts and their words. I wasn’t a teenage prodigy who completed his first novel by the time he was thirteen. I think back to my teen years and can’t even begin to imagine how I would have put together a piece of fiction, let alone one that was novel-length.

I … hated … writing. One of the happiest days of my life was when I took the English placement test for college and did well enough that I didn’t need to take the required English courses. My marriage and the birth of my two boys rank only slightly higher than that moment. I then spent the next five years of college staying away from the English Department. Maybe it wasn’t genetic – both my brother and father were English majors at the same university, with my father even tacking on a Master’s Degree in the subject. 

What I have done, however, is read throughout my entire life. And, when I was in my 20s, my father shared his manuscripts with me. I thought they were pretty incredible, but then I guess I was biased. One of my great disappointments for him was that he never found an agent or publisher for any of his novels.

Maybe something clicked then, seeing his efforts at writing a novel. I started thinking I wanted to write a novel, too. Not a short story, but a full-blown 100,000 word novel. At odd moments, the words of a first sentence would pop into my head. Maybe even an entire paragraph. Inevitably, however, I would try to imagine what would come next and what always …. ALWAYS … came next was a brick wall. I had no idea how to translate these incredible opening lines into anything more than, well, opening lines. 

One day, a friend who knew about my frustrated desire to write told me about National Novel Writing Month. I looked for the article she had seen and read it. This weird thing happened that day. On my way drive home I outlined an entire novel in my head. When did this happen? Ten years ago this month. Just before NaNoWriMo 2003. Thank you, by the way, for joining me in celebrating the tenth anniversary of the day I became a writer.

The idea was inspired, unfortunately, by the Kobe Bryant rape trial. At first, I thought of fictionalizing his story, but knew that would take too much. Instead, what I needed to do was create a story that I could imagine myself in. I thought that would be much easier than trying to imagine what a millionaire basketball player might think and do. The novel, then, was going to be about an average Joe (or Jack, if you will) who has a one-night stand and then is accused of rape. He doesn’t have the resources Kobe had. What might happen to the poor shmuck. Thus, One Night in Bridgeport was born.

What I describe as my story-telling storm door blew wide open then. The question is why and what this may mean for you.

Why do I write? Because there are stories in my head now. Where there were only opening lines for so long, there are countless stories burning a hole in my head. Whether they are great literature or not, I want to write these stories and put them out to the reading masses. What once filled me with fear and inadequacy now fills me with something else. 

As a teenager, college student, and law student, I hated writing because I was afraid of not being worthy. I couldn’t let myself go and write because of that fear. What if … they don’t like it? They laugh? They think it’s stupid? Those what ifs, those insecurities, compelled me to avoid writing at all costs.

Now, writing is so much of who I am, I can’t imagine not writing. What fascinates me now is trying to come up with different ways to tell a story. I’ll be publishing a series of three short novellas in the coming months. Each of them is told in a different way. Deviation is told entirely in dialogue. Northville Five & Dime is told from the shifting third person views of three characters. And Carlota, well, it’s a pretty straightforward third person narrative, but the story is in a genre that I typically don’t dabble in.

And, that is why I now write. To keep exploring. To keep pushing the boundaries of what I can do. Once I wrote that first novel, I discovered that I could tell stories. It’s kind of like running. Every runner has a wall. That point in a run when they either give in to the pain and discomfort or they push past it to the blissful state where the pain goes away, the breathing evens out and suddenly they are running. Just running.

My writing experience compares to that. I had this wall I couldn’t get past. Once I forced down the wall, the writing flowed. It’s not always easy. There are distractions and writer’s block and, worst of all, nowhere near enough time to write as much as I’d like. But I know this, part of why I live now is to write. To get those stories that are poking and prodding at the inside of my head and put them in a form that, hopefully, will be entertaining and mean something to readers. I am a writer. That’s why I write. 

The question is … why don’t you? This is what I keep hearing from many people. “I’d like to write, but …” No. I don’t want to hear about it anymore. If I could crack the nut, you can to. You don’t have to have written since the womb. You don’t have to be the next Faulkner or Didion. You don’t have to complete a thing. You can write poetry, short stories, long stories, random word strings. Whatever it is. You can do it. You can write whatever it is that’s in your head. Take a few baby steps and soon you’ll be running.

If you want to write, there is only one reason you are not. Just like the only thing stopping me for all those years was me, the only thing that’s stopping you is … yes … it’s you. 

Why do I write? Because I want to and I have stories to tell. Why don’t you?



5 thoughts on “Why Do I Write? A Guest Post By Mark Paxson

  1. Great story Mark. I had a gentleman tell me at a meeting Tuesday night, “I always wanted to write, but,” and I had to crawl his arse because I had heard his story and it needs to be told. There are characters that need to live and die and there are stories that need to be told. And why? You ask, or you don’t, but I am going to tell you, because the readers need us.

Sing Canary! Sing! :D

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